Are you one of the estimated 25 million viewers who have tuned into the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics? If so, undoubtedly you have noticed the round discolorations on the upper back of several of the Olympic athletes, including Michael Phelps.
These suction cup appearing patterns harken visions of the earliest Olympians being on the losing end of an epic battle with a Kraken! However, for today’s trendies it is all part of a voluntary “therapeutic” homeopathic modality called cupping.
Cupping is nothing new, in fact this method dates back to ancient Egypt but just because something has been around for a long time, does not necessarily mean it is your best option. Various methods of cupping are popular now including wet, dry, in combination with acupuncture, etc. The practice consists of cups infused with a flammable substance, ignited, and placed on the skin immediately after extinguishing. The cooling of the cups generates a vacuum effect that draws the skin up into the device resulting in an increase in blood flow to the area, which causes the purplish-red marks. The cups remain in place anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes and this “drawing of the skin” is felt to reduce inflammation, pain, and tension. However, there is no scientific evidence that cupping aides in healing. In fact, a recent article in the Dallas News states it actually can be dangerous.
Thus, we begin our quest to find an alternative that is medically proven and not disfiguring. Here at Northwest Broward Orthopaedics, we have a fully staffed, onsite physical therapy department for our patients’ convenience. David is one of our amazing physical therapists who offers what may not be a quick fix but, if performed as instructed with a professional therapist, will provide more than a Band-Aid approach but actually address the root of the problem for long term benefits.
David explains how, similar to cupping, Kinesio tape can be used for the joints. Kinesiology has numerous applications to aide in the treatment of edema, inflammation, and pain. The tape acts as another layer of skin where the tension of the tape lifts the skin up, decreasing the pressure in the joints. Trigger points are areas of increased tension in the muscles and are basically miniature muscle spasms. The correct positioning of the tape and increasing blood flow to the area helps the trigger point to release. In addition to aiding with blood flow, taping can be used to assist with body alignment. Back pain caused by sustained everyday incorrect posture at your desk or while driving can be relieved by the application of Kinesio tape. The tape is applied in a way which places you in an ideal posture and once your body begins to “slouch” out of position, you will feel the pull of the tape and align yourself back into proper position. The tape makes you more aware of your body position, proprioception (self-awareness of body position and motion). The kinesiology also acts to prevent injuries. David states he uses the tape quite often with ankle sprains. With repetitive ankle sprains, everything stretches out of place and when the tape is applied, you actually feel the pull which is not present otherwise. The taping holds everything in proper alignment, preventing further ankle sprains by providing that subtle support that allows you to move, but in a proper way. Splinting and bracing completely immobilizes the area therefore you notice many athletes utilizing the Kinesio tape during sports since it allows them to remain active.
While Kinesio tape comes in a wide array of strengths, materials, and colors and can be found in any sporting supply store and some department stores, it is crucial to the success of the product that it is applied accurately. There should be an understanding of anatomy, where the muscles originate and insert, to achieve proper placement. David had additional training for certification in proprioception and kinesiology. He also does not rely exclusively on taping but uses the product in conjunction with an individually tailored physical therapy regimen. Taping can be used in such a manner that it forces one muscle to work harder than another enabling patients to do certain exercises with less pain. The reduction of pain enables them to push even further and achieve greater results. Physical therapy trains the muscles to do the work of the tape, to keep the body in alignment through strengthening and awareness. Therefore, by the time the patient reaches maximum improvement, they have been completely weaned off of the tape and the muscles have regained full control to do all the work. David’s main goal with his patients is not to keep them in therapy forever or dependent upon bracing, splinting, or taping. He strives to work with patients to achieve a level of activity, range of motion, and strength that allows them to enjoy their quality of life to the fullest. We invite you to contact our office for further information on our physical therapy department and additional services we have to offer to keep you feeling your best.