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Taping and Bracing

Taping or bracing a joint is one of the most common treatments for a sprain. There seems to be some confusion as to when someone should use this method, it’s pros and cons, and how it should be done.

Here I’ll discuss how taping works, why and when you should use it, and then do a quick primer on how.

Hopefully this post can wrap things up… get it?

Why use taping or bracing?

Generally, taping is used for sprains, but not so often for strains. Remember the basic difference of sprains vs. strains: sprains happen in ligaments, and strains happen in muscles.

Ligaments are pieces of connective tissue, that look like little pieces of tape holding your bones together and guide normal movement: see here. When you sprain them, you stretch them out, maybe even tearing them. This causes instability at the joint.

Left: stable good. Right: instable bad.

So when you use sports tape or bracing, you are trying to get that stability back. Make sense?

Taping is also thought to aid in muscle strain by taking pressure off muscles, posture through sensory feedback, etc., but many of these are unsubstantiated claims. I am not so sure about the quality of research for these uses, but I’ll look into it. For now, I’m keeping this discussion about sprains.


Taping for joint instability seems to have some fairly good evidence to support its use.

A recent review article stated: “The main significant finding was the reduction of ankle sprain by 69% … with the use of ankle brace and reduction of ankle sprain by 71% … with the use of ankle tape among previously injured athletes.” 1

Another article stated: “Greater benefit is achieved in applying prophylactic ankle taping or bracing to athletes with a history of ankle sprain, compared with those without previous sprains.” 2

So wearing a brace can help prevent ankle sprains, and works even better in people who have had a sprain before. This can be taken as evidence that the brace compensates for some of the instability you may have from a sprain.

Not bad! And for such a small time and cost investment, I’d say go for it.

BUT WAIT! Won’t wearing a brace make my muscles weaker?

This is a common question. The belief is that constantly wearing a brace takes pressure off your muscles and connective tissue, which means they will not get as strong from the exercise you are doing. Maybe this is true (I couldn’t find any research). It does make sense.

However, I don’t recommend wearing braces or taping unless you are doing after you were injured already. That way you should get stronger in the ways you need to, simply through practice. But if you recently suffered a sprain, there is no reason why you shouldn’t brace it. Plus, it won’t get weak if you are doing exercises to rehab the injury (which should be done without the brace).

You wear the brace until it gets better. How long is that? Well, depending on severity, it could take 6 weeks to three months 3, and even after a year, it could still be loose! 4 How long you need to wear it varies case by case, so I won’t say here.

But if you are doing some strengthening exercises once or twice a week, you don’t need to worry about bracing making you weaker.

So how do I use taping or bracing?

Which one: Tape or Brace?

Generally, taping is more customizable than bracing. However, it usually costs more (can’t re-use it) and takes time to put on.

Bracing is easier, faster, and cheaper (except those crazy elaborate ones), but don’t offer much flexibility.

Seems neither is any better than the other 5.

So, you have to make the decision of which on your own. I pick cheap.


Bracing is easy, just follow the instructions that come with whatever you buy.

You can easily look up how to use sports tape on the internet. Despite the emphasis of professionals on how to ‘do it right’, as long as it is stable and tight, yet comfortable and don’t cut off your circulation, it’s probably fine!

I’ll make some guides for taping for particular injuries later.

Here are some precautions:
– Don’t use tape over a very new acute injury that is swollen and painful.
– Don’t tape over skin with abnormal sensations.
– Don’t tape over an open wound, scrapes, friction or pressure points etc.
– Careful if you may have an allergy to the adhesive (sticky stuff).
– Make sure your circulation is okay after you are done taping.

Where can I get some?

All this stuff is easy to find in a place like Wal-Mart, or your local drug store. You can always try Amazon. Want some tape? Try this stuff. Looking for a brace? Look here.
It don’t have to be anything fancy. Which leads me to this next point.


What about special tape?

The current trend in sports therapy is ‘k-taping’, but the research is very ‘meh’ 6,7,8,9,10,11. It’s probably no better than the cheaper stuff. For how much it costs, I’d say ‘meh’ isn’t worth it.

Buy the good old cheap stuff.

That’s it for now!

Soon I’ll throw together some more detailed articles on how to do specific tape jobs.

For now, hope you all found this post useful!


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