I read an interesting note on a blog recently. It was about a runner who had been injured and still went ahead with a run they had been training for. I don’t have a problem with that, everyone has important things to do, and if finishing that 10k at all costs is what it is, then so be it.
The quote that caught my eye was that after the race, the runner said the therapists tape had “held her together through the run”.
Now, I’m going to take a little bit of issue with that one.
As humans we have a load of rather excitingly strong tissues holding us together. Ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones. Together they make a pretty resilient structure which takes a remarkable amount of load to break.
Fragile, we ain’t.
Like any organic structure, the more it gets used (within reason, and with enough recovery), the stronger it will become. By the same token, the less it gets used, the weaker it will become. As yet, we humans haven’t actually managed to create tape which is stronger than muscle, ligament or bone. There is nothing that we can stick onto the body which will absorb shock or resist tension or torsion any better than the living tissue that is our body.
Well then… why on earth do you use all that snazzily coloured tape then? If it isn’t there to hold me together, what is it doing?
It is doing what most physiotherapeutic devices do – it appears to change input, potentially allowing your body to move in a more comfortable manner allowing injured tissues to have less stress put through them as it is directed through other areas.
It is a physical stress management device.
Think of it like sticking tape onto a cats fur – the cat uses its fur to be aware of its surroundings, and thus – tape on fur makes it walk like it is constantly next to something.
Muscles and tendons have proprioceptors and work out where they are in space a bit like a cat with its fur. Stick something on the skin and the body will behave differently. At the very least you’ll be more aware of the position of where the tape has been stuck, potentially being able to move through space with a more kinematically aware limb.
However, what it does not do, is stop you from falling apart. Your body is fairly good at that already.