Taping Tips for Dancers
Taping is a common modality performed by Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, and Athletic Trainers. There are two kinds of taping, structural taping and kinesiotaping. Structural taping involves stiff tape, to provide mechanical support. Kin-taping uses stretchy tape, providing less structural support, but more proprioceptive feedback to help our brain know where our body is in space. This awareness is thought to help prevent injuries as we are more aware of extremities moving into painful or less stable ranges of motion.
Many dancers have experienced taping in some way or another, and often dancers will go buy kin tape and tape themselves. Below, I’ve outlined some of my tips for taping to ensure more therapeutic benefit, effectiveness, and comfort from taping.
1: Cut with round corners
Although many dancers may not be concerned with the aesthetics of taping, one detail I always suggest following is cutting rounded corners. Often tape will stick to the body for a few days at a time. However, tape also has a tendency to curl at the corners. When we round the edges, we reduce the chances of tape starting to peel, making tape jobs last longer, saving on tape and time. Take the time to cut your tape with thought and detail and you will find your roll of tape will go that much further!
2: Stretch as you apply your tape
For certain tape jobs, you need to be applying the tape with a certain amount of stretch. If you are following a muscle, you may also want to consider taping while the muscle is in a lengthened position. For example, if you are taping your forearm extensors, you want to stick the edge of the tape down, and then continue applying with some percentage (25-50) of stretch in the tape. This means you need to pull the tape as you press and smooth it out on your skin. For forearm extensors, you may also want to have your wrist in a flexed position, thereby stretching our extensors keeping them in a lengthened position during tape application.
3: Rub to activate the glue
The glue that is on the tape is usually heat activated. Once you have your tape job finished and you are happy with the direction and tension, you can try rubbing the tape to really stick it to your skin. The heat produced by the friction of rubbing activates the glue, helping your tape job last as long as possible. However, knowing that heat activates the glue means we should avoid showering if we want to remove your tape. This is a common mistake. If you have a hot shower you are actually making the tape stick even more to the skin. Let your tape job slowly and naturally wear off until it’s much easier and painless to remove!
4: Follow your anatomy
When doing a new tape job, think about your anatomy. Often tape jobs are following one or two muscles. If you know where these muscles attach on both ends, your tape will truly support that area of your body. If you don’t know the anatomy, simply put the body area (thigh for example) into google images and you will find many resources outlining and labelling various anatomy in this region. By following the anatomy of the body, it makes taping more specific to the way that joint moves and how the muscle we are focusing on affects that joint(s).
5: Cut your tape into strips
If you are taping your thumb or your knee, or your shoulder, you may find that cutting strips into one end of the tape actually helps you navigate the curves of our body. Sometimes it also broadens the area of support provided by the tape. Cutting tape into a lot of small strips and then creating a cross hatch pattern can also help with lymphatic drainage for various conditions or even contusions (bruising) in soft tissue. Cutting tape can sometimes seem challenging as it can stick and tangle quite easily, but once you get the hang of it, using strips can really help increase the effectiveness of taping as a modality.
6: Don’t be afraid to start over and re-tape
If you are relatively new to taping, or are taping a new body part, you may need to practise a few times. If your tape job is not the right direction or the right amount of tension or stretch, then you may notice your tape is minimally effective. Don’t be afraid to rip your tape off and start over. I always suggest looking up a tape job on YouTube first from a few different perspectives so you can minimise potential waste.
7: Try to find taping suitable for the stage
If you are considering taping for the stage, I recommend sourcing out tape that matches your costume or your skin tone. Taping comes in many different colours, offering creative ways to incorporate tape into your performance look. Often, when we see a performer with tape on we can’t help but subconsciously worry about their injury as they dance. By hiding your tape or helping it blend in with our look more we allow the audience to truly sit back and enjoy your performance.
8: Try heated tape!
Yes, this does exist! This is a very new product that is very exciting for dancers! This tape comes with natural menthol already on the tape, while still providing a waterproof tape (approved by Health Canada). Heat activated products add therapeutic value through two processes typically, one being vasodilation. By adding heat to the area, you are encouraging the muscles that line our arteries to relax, allowing increased blood flow to the area. This fresh blood brings with it oxygen and nutrients and takes away waste and carbon dioxide. The second component of heat activated products is counter-irritant. This actually stimulates other nerve pathways to our brain, causing our brain to focus on the heat sensation over the pain or nociceptive signals (signals telling your brain you have some tissue damage in that area). I also love the tape with menthol by Mobility Tape because it offers three-way stretch, two width options (5 cm and 10 cm) and a few colour options. Curious about heated kin tape? Go get yourself a roll and try it out! (More information about heated kin tape available on MOD Dancewear and Boutique’s website).
Taping is a great, inexpensive form of treatment and support for movement. As dancers, we are constantly acquiring small injuries that taping can help treat and prevent. If you’re curious to learn more, check out various taping courses offered by clinicians, trainers, and tape companies! To purchase tape, check out MOD Dancewear & Boutique at www.myowndesign.ca (note that most tape suppliers may not carry the heated, menthol tape, but MOD does, both online and in-person). For more information on taping or injuries with dancers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.madetomove.ca!
Article written by Stephen Gray of Made to Move Clinic.
Stephen is a graduate of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Gray is also certified/trained in clinical and athletic taping, mental health first aid (CAMH), Smarttools (IASTM), Progressive Ballet Technique, Pilates Process Teacher Training Program, Athletic Movement Assessment (Lower Limb), Concussion Detection & Management (U of Calgary), Thompson Technique, Functional Range Conditioning, and McMaster University’s Medical Acupuncture Program (Completion December 2020). Prior to his clinical journey, Dr. Gray performed for over 15 years as a member of CAEA, AEA, and ACTRA across North America (Stratford, Broadway tour, Degrassi), and has taught for Ryerson University, Sheridan College, George Brown College, DUBO Force (Mexico), as well as Taipei, Taiwan, the National Dance Institute (Albequerque) and Rochester School for the Arts. He has also choreographed for Sandals Resort Turks & Caicos, Neptune Theatre, Theatre Aquarius, and Etobicoke School for the Arts. Stephen has adjudicated across Canada, as well as a music and dance festival in Taiwan. Stephen has also written over 15 articles for two dance magazines and holds a Honours Bachelor in Music Theatre Performance.