If you watched the Rio Olympics, you may have noticed athletes wearing colorful tape along their arms, legs, and even torso. If you looked carefully, you may have even seen it on some of the event horses. What is that stuff, you ask? It’s kinesiology tape. This may seem like a new thing, but in fact it’s actually just gaining in popularity.
It was developed in Japan in 1979 and has been used in both people and horses since then. There has been varying success with different tape on animals, mostly because of their hair coat and activity. I had used it on myself and had seen the benefit, but couldn’t find a brand that worked on my furry patients.
I started working with RockTape in the beginning of 2016 and have been very impressed with it. This tape actually sticks extremely well to dogs and stays on for a number of days. As I started to work with it more and more, I found myself using it on different conditions. I also got great feedback from clients and my technicians on patient improvement and ease of use.
I would like to share that knowledge with you and give you some background on RockTape so that you can incorporate it into your patients. Let’s start with what RockTape actually is. Then we can discuss what it isn’t, and finally how we use it safely in veterinary medicine.
It’s a cotton weave tape that has 180% elongation from its original length. The tight weave provides more durability for the tape in our patients. The non-latex acrylic adhesive is very sturdy. The adhesive is heat activated (just by rubbing your hands on it), and I have yet to need an additional adhesive spray to keep it on my patients. RockTape is waterproof, as is evident by my dog Penny wearing it in the underwater treadmill.
RockTape comes in 2” and 4” widths, and I have cut the 2” down to 1” for use on my smaller patients. I have to admit the styling colors and designs are a big hit with my clients.
It is a lot more than just tape on skin. When using RockTape we aren’t taping for structure but movement. The tape has a lifting effect on the skin and fascia and this is where the real work happens.
By lifting the skin and fascia, RockTape has many effects. Improving the space between muscle bellies, between skin and fascia and between fascial planes itself allows the body to have better circulation, improved vasodilation, and improved lymphatic drainage. I have found this effect very helpful for post-surgical patients with edema and swelling. I’ve also used RockTape over areas where I anticipate swelling will be and use it pre-emptively.
RockTape also has a mechanical effect by lifting on the tissues to allow for better glide. I have found this very helpful on patients with tight muscles from years of postural changes as compensation from osteoarthritis.
Finally, it has a neurological effect. This is two-fold, the first being pain mitigation. We believe this occurs by Gate Theory. Remember from vet school that non-painful stimuli have been theorized to “close the gate” to painful stimuli, which prevents pain stimulation from reaching the spinal cord.
The other neurological effect is awareness. Small sensory inputs give the body great feedback. In patients with poor posture, the simple application of RockTape gives feedback to their nervous system. To me this is like my grandmother always reminding me to “stand-up straight”.
For patients with impaired neurological systems (Intervertebral Disc Disease [IVDD], Fibrocartilaginous Emboli [FCE], Degenerative Myelopathy [DM], Lumbosacral Disease [LS]), RockTape provides positive feedback on conscious proprioception.
I had a German Shepherd with degenerative myelopathy that would scuff and drag his hind legs. When I applied RockTape to the dorsal aspects of his hind feet, he stopped scuffing. When we took it off, he went right back to scuffing. So we put the tape back on to keep him from scuffing. The principle here is the same as posture. RockTape gave his sensory neurons information telling him where his feet were in space. Without the tape there just wasn’t enough stimulation of the nervous system to tell him that.
How long does the tape need to be on? This will depend on the condition you’re treating. This could be 12 hours for edema control, 3 – 4 days for pain mitigation. You may also be applying it every few days to help with sensory perception.
RockTape sticks really well to dogs’ coats. I’ve had it on my pit-bull for 3 days straight without a problem and without shaving her. RockTape has stuck on my German Shepherds, Labradors, and Rottweilers. For the longer coated dogs, I do recommend clipping them down. The same rules apply for cats.
Patient selection is very important. While the tape is non-toxic, it has the potential to cause an obstruction if swallowed. Therefore, using it in the hospital, under staff supervision would be a good first step or using an Elizabethan collar with patients so they can’t ingest it.
The vast majority of pets don’t bother the tape, and I’ve had only one report of a very thin skinned Whippet having some skin irritation from the adhesive. If any pet seems bothered by the tape, it should be removed and the patient evaluated by a veterinarian. Safety first and always.
My top uses for RockTape in my practice:
- Cervical pain
- Trigger points along the vertebrae
- Stifle support – for luxating patella, cruciate injuries, osteoarthritis
- Iliopsoas soreness
- Post-operative soreness/swelling/edema
- Body awareness – especially for patients recovering from neurological conditions
- Biceps tendonitis
- Adhesions/contractions/scar tissue – areas that have caused impairment in limb/body function
- Part of a multimodal approach to pain management
I also use it RockTape on myself. I’m often hunched over patients (as I’m sure you are too) and I’ve had RockTape on myself for all the reasons listed above for my patients. I also use it for postural awareness, to remind me to keep my shoulders back, my head up. By taking care of ourselves, we can take better care of our patients.
So while the concept of kinesiology taping has been around for almost 40 years, the technology and science are starting to catch up where we can practically and effectively use it on our dogs and cats. New research will be coming available on applications for it, but I encourage you to get out there and try it yourselves.
I teach a full day course with a hands-on lab for those of you with further interest in RockTape. Check out the following links, and if you have questions, please email me and I’ll do my best to help you.
Check out RockTape.com/Canine for more information on courses