For many trainers and therapists, it’s an age-old question: Which should come first, tape or low-level laser therapy?
But the answer is actually easy: You don’t necessarily have to choose. It all depends on your patient, the type of injury and the goal you’re trying to reach.
My tape of choice is kinesio tape, which mimics the thickness and weight of skin and has about 40 to 60 percent elasticity. To apply, ensure skin is dry and clean of oils; you can also choose to apply a spray adherent. Apply tape to stretched tissue, and rub lightly to activate the heat-sensitive acrylic. Typically, you will want your patient to be able to complete a full range of motion, even after tape is applied. Tape should be applied at least 30 minutes before activity for best adhesion.
Applying tape before using low-level laser therapy can enhance movement patterns, range of motion, mobility and joint position. Taping offers neuromuscular education to reinforce the strength and stability of a joint, while laser as a follow-up helps decrease any soreness related to rehabilitation activities.
It’s important to know that when using laser over elastic therapeutic tape (cotton and breathable), your laser application time will need to be increased (I usually double the time with a 4W Apollo laser) to give the laser time to penetrate the barrier of the tape.
Low-level laser therapy, such as through the Apollo laser system, provides safe and effective healing and regeneration of tissue, along with pain relief.
Applying laser before tape provides a shorter treatment time since tape does not offer a barrier. In addition, direct low-level laser therapy enhances cellular metabolism, improves circulation, softens scar tissue, improves flexibility, decreases pain and can help improve range of motion.
Following up with tape after laser supports the joint or soft tissue and helps extend the results of laser therapy.
If you’ve never combined taping and low-level laser therapy, you may be missing out on a valuable treatment modality for your patients. The combination of taping and laser offers powerful synergistic effects. Where laser stimulates tissue, tape protects joints—and together, they help restore ligament and muscle function, especially in athletes.