Kinesiology tape is all the rage among both professional and recreational athletes these days. But it's not the only kind of taping used in sports and rehab. Another taping technique involves non-elastic latex tape and is called McConnell taping, after the Australian physical therapist, Jennie McConnell, who developed it in 1984 to treat patellofemoral syndrome (pain around the patella, a.k.a. kneecap, also called "runner's knee"). The idea is that this super-rigid, super-sticky tape—which is applied over a soft protective tape—realigns the kneecap, takes some pressure off the joint, and retrains the quadriceps muscles so the patella tracks properly. McConnell-like tape is now used to treat all kinds of musculoskeletal conditions, including rotator cuff strain and tennis elbow.
Many studies show it reduces pain but, as with kinesiology tape, the mechanism isn’t clear. Besides acting as a brace to stabilize joints and limit movement, the tape may reduce forces on painful soft tissues, help muscles relax, and provide proprioceptive feedback to remind you to avoid certain motions. Or it may help reduce pain through a placebo effect.
Many sports professionals consider this type of taping the gold standard for certain musculoskeletal problems, but as with most physical therapy modalities, the variability in studies makes it hard to know which conditions taping may be best for. A physical therapist or other practitioner should assess whether the tape is appropriate and show you how to apply it (this can be fairly complicated). It can be left on for up to three days. Brands of the outer rigid tape include Leukotape and Endura Tape.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.