Tape applied firmly across the fibres of a muscle has been proposed to decrease the activity of a muscle (Morrissey 2000). A number of studies have tested this hypothesis, mainly by applying rigid tape firmly, perpendicular to the direction of the muscle fibres over the upper trapezius (Fig. 4.1) and the vastus lateralis muscles (See Fig. 4.2) (Cools et al 2002, Janwantankul & Gaogasigam 2005, Morin et al 1997, Selkowitz et al 2007, Tobin & Robinson 2000).
A study using an isometric muscle contraction of the upper trapezius into scapular retraction and elevation showed that the effects of the
upper trapezius inhibitory taping resulted in a significant decrease in electromyographic (EMG) activity of the upper trapezius muscle and an increase in EMG activity in the middle portion of the trapezius muscle while taped when compared with a no-tape condition (Morin et al 1997).
Another study using a different methodology examined the EMG activity of the scapular muscles during active shoulder flexion and abduction (Cools et al 2002) and failed to find any significant changes in EMG activity of the upper and lower trapezius or the serratus anterior with similar inhibitory tape applied. Only one study has examined the effects of the upper trapezius inhibitory tape in subjects with shoulder pain (Selkowitz et al 2007). The results from this study indicate that this taping technique can inhibit the upper trapezius with a resulting increase in activity in the lower trapezius muscle during shoulder elevation when compared to an untaped condition.
The differences in methodology of these three studies make it difficult to draw conclusions about the absolute effects of inhibitory taping over the upper trapezius. Present evidence indicates that a single strip of rigid tape may decrease upper trapezius muscle activity and increase activity of the middle/lower trapezius during isometric contraction and shoulder elevation in patients with shoulder pain.
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