Let’s talk about the, who and when should you use strapping?
Firstly, you can’t just ‘strap’ something, you need to know what and why you are strapping it. Let’s use the ankle, which is a commonly strapped joint, as an example. Probably 90% of ankle injuries are inversion sprains, that is you roll your ankle with the sole coming in towards your body. This is strapped in a different way than an eversion injury, which is when you roll the other way. And if the ankle was hurt in more a forward or backwards direction than strapping can have a very limited effect, if any.
So if you want your ankle or any other part of your body strapped you need to know what happened and usually some sort of a diagnosis from a physiotherapist or medical professional.
The next question is why do you ‘need’ it strapped?
With any region of the body there is a balance between mobility of the region and stability. Strapping aims to help provide stability. If you are gaining some stability you are going to lose some mobility. With this loss can you still function normally without putting excessive stress on another region of your body.
There tend to be 3 main reasons we strap. 1. Immediately after an injury to protect it from further damage, 2. To provide slightly more support to a joint at the end stage of rehabilitation, and 3. to help protect a joint, usually a lax joint, from a new injury (prophylactic strapping). Strapping should not be done so you can go out and play when you are injured when you should still be in rehab, as no matter how well we support a region you can still damage it further.
Who should not be strapped?
Young children, unless specifically advised to by a health professional. They should fully rehab and return to sport gradually when they are pain free. People with delicate skin or react to tape – this will damage the skin further and result in a new problem to deal with. Those who are not ready to return to sport and think a couple of small bits of tape are going to protect them. And finally, those who don’t have a working diagnosis of their injury, as strapping the wrong thing or the wrong way may worsen the injury.
Written by Senior Physiotherapist Hamish Ashton