Taping a tennis elbow: Basics and Instructions

There are many different tapes and bandages available for taping a tennis elbow. The application of a tape bandage can be a useful and complementary method to support conservative therapy when treating tennis elbow.

It is therefore advisable to apply a tape bandage already in the acute phase of tennis elbow, as this can immediately relieve pain and prevent bad posture due to pain. This adds an essential aspect to the therapy consisting of moderate stretching exercises, pain medication, and cooling.

However, it has to be said that the effects of tape bandages have to be scientifically investigated in more detail and compared with each other to understand the exact mechanisms of action and to prove the effect scientifically.

In principle, a distinction is made between elastic tapes such as Kinesio-Tape and inelastic tapes such as Leukoplast.

The non-elastic tapes have a rather supporting and splinting function and can prevent swelling due to the pressure they exert on the tissue. This improves muscle function and relieves pain.

The elastic tapes are said to work more by activating the muscles, promoting blood circulation and lymph drainage, thus reducing swelling and relieving pain.

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The principle of Kinesio taping was developed by Dr. Kenzo Kaze, who used stretchable adhesive bandages instead of rigid bandages to immobilize the joint partially.

The word “kinesis” is Greek and means movement. On the one hand, the Kinesio tape bandages continue to allow movement of the affected joint; on the other hand, the Kinesio tape acts against the underlying tissue layers by moving the skin.

In Kinesio taping, the tapes are glued in such a way that they support the anatomy of a painful joint or muscle. The tape is stuck to the painful part of the body while it is under pre-stretching. The Kinesio tape, to which the skin is attached, causes the skin to shift against the underlying layers with every movement. These small movements increase blood circulation and improve lymphatic drainage, thus eliminating functional disorders and limitations and alleviating pain.

Frequently, Kinesiotaping even brings relief from pain shortly after tapping. The immediate reduction of pain prevents incorrect postures and relieving postures, resulting in less muscle tension than without Kinesiotaping. By normalizing the joint position and reducing muscle tension, the prognosis of functional joint dysfunction is significantly improved, and the healing process accelerated.

As Kinesio tape also regulates muscle tone utilizing constant small movements, it can even be used as a preventive measure in sports that place excessive strain on a certain part of the body. Thus, injuries or muscle cramps can be prevented.

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To achieve an optimal result when taping a tennis elbow, the person who applies the tape must have precise knowledge of the anatomy and functional anatomy of the affected body region. Since the medical layman generally does not have this knowledge, no tape should be applied by himself, as this can lead to the overlook of potentially serious illnesses.

Physio- and occupational therapists, masseurs, alternative practitioners, and doctors can learn the technique of Kinesio taping at advanced training courses and then offer it in their practices. It is also possible to train a patient who needs a certain tape again and again, e.g., to treat chronic pain caused by tennis elbow, in the tape technique. But before that, some tapes should be applied by the practitioner experienced in Kinesio taping to find out the optimal position of the tapes for the individual patient.

Sometimes other effects are attributed to the color of the tapes: the colors red or pink are said to stimulate the blood circulation particularly well and bring warmth to the affected area. The color blue is said to cool off inflamed areas. However, the different effects of different colored tapes have not been scientifically proven.

Kinesiotaping is generally free of side effects. Nevertheless, incorrect application can lead to a worsening of the clinical picture that one wants to treat. In rare cases, allergic reactions to the acrylic adhesive used are possible so that the Kinesio tape has to be removed earlier than planned due to itching and progressive reddening of the skin, and the healing process is interrupted. A tape bandage lasts about one week, and the holding time is not affected by sports and showers.

Please check our article about Tennis Elbow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Kinesiotaping for tennis elbow

The effect of Kinesio taping on the healing process of tennis elbow has not yet been scientifically proven, but many testimonials from former patients speak for an improvement of the pain and an acceleration of the healing process.

Taping a tennis elbow involves the treatment of the affected extensor muscles of the forearm and fingers. Before the tape bandage is applied, strong-arm hair should be shortened if necessary to improve the adhesion of the tape and prevent severe pain when it comes off. Thorough cleaning of the forearm is also advisable, as this also improves the adhesion of the tape.

To apply the tape, the elbow joint is stretched while the palm is pointing towards the floor. Now a flexion of the wrist is performed by bending the wrist. The patient can now see parts of his palm. Then a first tape is applied about an inch above the wrist and stuck to the forearm along the forearm extensor muscle, which can be felt well with the hand. The tape ends about two to three inches above the elbow joint on the outside of the upper arm.

In the area of the elbow joint, there should be a stronger pull over the region with the most pain than over the rest of the forearm. A second, shorter tape is then applied to the outside of the elbow. It should be pulled diagonally upwards over the region with the most significant pain and end on the inside of the upper arm. The region of most enormous pain in tennis elbow is the inflamed, overstrained, and the irritated starting point of the tendons of the forearm extensor muscles on the outside of the elbow. The stronger pull over this region causes a particularly large number of movements of the skin against the underlying layers here, which particularly promotes blood circulation and lymph drainage and contributes to rapid pain relief. There are various ways in which a Kinesio tape can be applied to treat tennis elbow. A therapist or doctor experienced in Kinesio taping can identify and use the best variant for each patient.

Akutaping for tennis elbow

Just like in Kinesio taping, the bandages used in acute taping are stretchable. Akutaping is a further development of Kinesiotaping and combines findings from acupuncture and osteopathy with Kinesiotaping. As a result, not only the painful areas are taped, but also regions of the body which, due to a functional impairment, can trigger a disorder at the painful site.

For example, in the case of tennis elbow, a finger and forearm extensor muscle acupuncture can be used as with Kinesio taping. If this form of taping produces insufficient results, the flexor muscles of the fingers and forearm, the upper arm, or the cervical spine can also be included in the treatment.

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