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Compression socks with tape 

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

I keep hearing the claim that taping can increase circulation, and this is one of the main ways that it enhances performance. I’ve made fun of that claim. When I first looked at the results of a 2013 study, I was ready to eat some humble pie and issue a mea culpa: the results of Aguilar-Ferrándiz et al seemed more encouraging than I expected.

Mixed Kinesio taping-compression therapy improves symptoms, peripheral venous flow and severity and slightly increases overall health status in females with mild chronic venous insufficiency.

But @exuberantdoc brought me back to my senses by quipping “compression socks with tape.” I don’t mind being wrong and admitting it, but I don’t think I need to do it today, about this. Circulation is driven pretty much exclusively by metabolic demand — not by minor stimulation of the skin and superficial connective tissues. The idea that tape can increase circulation anywhere near enough to fight fatigue while exercising is extremely wishful thinking. Blood doping, cocaine, and better fitness can fight fatigue — not tape. In someone with venous insufficiency — basically, blood pooling in the legs — you can bind up their calves with tape like compression socks, and that will be … about as helpful as compression socks, of course. There’s not really any reason to use tape for that. If tape (or compression socks) had a measurable circulatory effect on healthy people, now that would be mildly interesting. But it would be downright shocking if it was a robust enough effect to affect athletic performance (let alone elite performance). I’ve updated my taping article with a citation to Aguilar-Ferrándiz et al, plus this perspective:

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