Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

The taping of Methai the elephant

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
Get posts in your inbox:
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.

“Kinesio” tape sounds like more than it is, implying that it’s about kinesiology, the science of human movement — but it is not a product of that science. It’s just a name that makes it sound more legitimate than it is, dating back to the invention of chiropractor Kenzo Kase in the 1970s. It was never based on science or even plausible. In the last decade, therapy tape — the generic concept — has become a fad, and this elephant-taping incident is a fine example of how absurd the taping fad has become:

Elephants deserve better! This nonsense is embarrassing to all serious healthcare professionals. But at least it was nice to see so many exasperated, critical reactions to it (see the replies to the tweet). Dr. Clay Jones for

If KT has no specific benefit in humans, and at most some minor and brief placebo-driven alteration in the perception of pain or impetus to try a little harder during a workout, what could it possibly do for an elephant? Elephant skin is tougher and much thicker than human skin, 25 to 40 millimeters compared to our paltry 2 millimeters. Their muscles are also considerably stronger and their superficial vasculature held even more firmly in place. The claim that a strip of stretchy tape is doing anything at all to elephant physiology approaches homeopathy levels of implausibility.

The taping of Methai the elephant was nicely timed for me: it brought a lot of attention to the topic just as I was wrapping up a reboot of the PainSci taping page. This is the first of several imminent article renovations, where I do much more than just “update.”

Before: A mere position statement, just a few exasperated opinions and references.

After: A full critical analysis and a proper member of the PainSci library. Detailed, referenced, crafted.

While I was researching this, I came across a blog post amibitiously titled something like “the last thing post you will ever need to read about taping.” It was a perfectly fine thousand word blog post, but it did not remotely cover the topic in detail. My rebooted taping article is five thousand words of background, critical analysis, readable scientific review, and commentary.