Taping and Bracing in the PT World

By Jenny Johnson – CC’s Staff

Taping and Bracing in the PT World

Both taping and bracing have various uses in the PT world when it comes to acute injuries or chronic conditions. We just want to remind everyone that they have a time and place when they are appropriate. An ankle brace, for example, can be useful for a day or two to provide some passive support after an ankle sprain. An ACL brace is beneficial before or after surgical repair to protect the knee or the new repaired tendon. A shoulder immobilizer/sling is necessary the first weeks after an aggressive shoulder surgery, again to protect the repair. However, we don’t want patients to get into the habit of relying on them all the time. When people start relying on the brace too much or using them when not appropriate, they can actually be detrimental. These braces provide external support, therefore our “internal” support structures like muscles, ligaments, etc. don’t have to do their job to stabilize the joints. Our body is meant to be able to move, stabilize, and balance ourselves, but if our structures don’t have to do their job, they can become unstable and very weak once the brace or splint is removed. Since braces are used to protect body parts, they also really limit range of motion. Using them when not necessary will lead to limited mobility once the splint is removed. For example, using a shoulder sling when not warranted can lead to a frozen shoulder, which can take weeks or months to rehab.

Taping has become more popular in the last few years with Kinesiotape, Rock tape, and other types being used with professional athletes. Standard athletic taping is used to treat acute injuries to provide support or protect a recently injured area. However, just like bracing, if used too much or too long can lead to weakening of the structures around that injury. Some types of tape, like leukotape, can be used for position correction at a kneecap or a shoulder blade, to help change abnormal forces. Once again, this is used short term and as only a part of a rehab plan, as we still have to restore function and increase strength, mobility, and stability in surrounding structures. Kinesiotape, KT, Rock tape, or other variations of kinesiology tape out there can be used for fascillitation/activation, or inhibition/shutting down of certain muscles as well as help with some proprioceptive input to our body. We use these tapes to help initiate proper movement patterns and to reinforce any work we have done in the clinic, so that patients have better carry-over in the long term. There is an art to applying the tape too, and you have to know how and where to apply it.

Sometimes when patients are struggling with a pain or injury for a long time, they start to get frustrated and impatient and start to think maybe a brace or splint would help. The broken record again, is that they have an appropriate time and place to be used, and temporarily decreasing pain is not worth the long-term effects of stiffness or weakness.

If you have questions regarding taping, bracing, or splinting, catch on of the therapists here at CC’s and we would be glad to help!

Post Author: Jenny Johnson

Jenny is a DPT, wife, baseball lover, kayaker, dog wrangler, and new mom to sweet baby, Bria.


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