Learning Outside School: RockTape and Movement Assessment
“Rocktape” might sound like a reference to a grunge album from the 90s- a Nirvana cassette, say- especially if you’ve been reminiscing with the nostalgic Internet Explorer commercial that has been making the rounds on social media lately.
But really it is a product and series of therapies that I spent the weekend learning. This was my first experience adding some extra-curricular skills to the manual therapy toolbox since arriving here at New York Chiropractic College. So when my volleyball-nut roommates signed up for a seminar on a treatment that had been effective in competition for them, I decided to join in on the experience.
Rocktape is a type of uniquely stretchy kinesiology tape used most prominently in athletic training. Following the appearance
of a similar tape on several Olympic athletes, notably US women’s beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh, interest in the use of such tapes skyrocketed. It purports to improve performance by increasing the flow of blood and lymph under the skin, improving mechanics of underlying structures by decreasing pressure, and modifying neurological feedback on pain and posture from nerve endings in skin. The training seminar we attended culminated in a certification in Fascial Movement Taping, making us “Advanced RocDocs.”
The actual seminar went through taping techniques for a wide range of body areas and for a multitude of purposes. We practiced working with the shoulder, knee, ankles and different regions of the back, and learned the preferred ways to treat in areas of swelling, scarring, and muscle injury or soreness. The class also outlined the theory behind “neurotaping,” which follows the path of a nerve, and “muscle tweaking,” said to assist a sore muscle when stretched tape is applied perpendicular to muscle fibers.
Since I do not have any ongoing injuries, by far my favorite technique was taping for posture. As a student, I spend far more time than is healthy bent over taking notes in class, or lounging while studying. By appropriately placing tape while holding correct posture, I could feel the tape stretch as a reminder anytime I slouched down. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to try it out on NYCC Media Assistant Amanda VanTassel back at the school.
Amanda’s taping is actually a good illustration of how the tape’s effects work. Perceptions of muscle or joint position are known as proprioception. However, when bad postural habits form (or when poor technique becomes typical in sports), individuals may no longer perceive that their body is held in an asymmetrical position (or that muscle groups are working asymmetrically). The idea behind RockTape is that the feeling of the tape on the skin allows touch receptors to send additional positional information to the brain. This allows individuals to move from unconscious dysfunction toward consciousness of their problems, and then to correction of those issues.
Interestingly, research is not solid behind the some of the techniques that we learned. RockTape has compiled a collection of relevant studies. The results are quite mixed, but a 2011 research review article by sports performance researchers in New Zealand sums them up well. Researchers Williams et al. found that evidence supported small improvements in strength, force sensing errors and active range of motion of an injured area, but found inadequate support for pain, ankle proprioception and muscle activity. They concluded that additional well-designed studies are necessary. Athletes and consumers have been undaunted so far.
Nonetheless, I came away thrilled with my experience. The seminar was taught by Dr. Perry Nickelston, whose website describes him as an expert in movement assessment and diagnosis. His expertise was clear. For me, perhaps the best part of the training was his extensive information about functional movement screening. Dr. Perry provided guidance and hands-on experience to seek out dysfunction at its source, rather than at the chief point of complaint from the patient. He emphasized that pain will not necessarily lead you to the source of structural or functional problems, and he showed us diagnostic movements and exercises to find likely culprits more accurately. RockTape tied back in as a tool in correcting such issues.
Myself, I look forward to using these diagnostic techniques in conjunction with the palpation and diagnosis techniques I am learning in my classes at NYCC. Further, I look to try out my taping skills regularly, to draw my own conclusions and hopefully help my own patients along the way.
Recommended research source:
Williams S, Whatman C, Hume PA and Sheerin K. Kinesio Taping in Treatment and Prevention of Sports Injuries. Sports Med. 2012; 42(2): 153-64. Available at: http://rocktape.net/downloads/ktmetaanalysis.pdf. Accessed January 30, 2013.