Olympic Fads or the Secret to Success: From cupping to kinesio tape – Does it really work?
Every four years the world is swept up in the hype of the Olympic games. The very best athletes from around the globe compete against each other for the glory and satisfaction of a gold medal. These athletes train and push their bodies to the extreme for years in order to compete at the pinnacle of their body’s ability. Naturally, these athletes are lured by the offer that alternative therapies and external devices may provide them with a competitive edge. But do they really work? Allow My Physio Perth to set the story straight!
What is alternative therapy?
Alternative therapy or alternative medicine is any treatment or practice offering therapeutic benefits without a solid foundation of scientific evidence. Mainstream Western medicine and Allied Health, including physiotherapy utilizes evidence-based practice to ensure individuals are treated with medicine and techniques that are proven to be beneficial without undue risk of harm. For a particular medicine or treatment technique to become conventional practice, it must undergo years of scientific scrutiny. Alternative medicine or therapy such as Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, cupping), chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, magnetic healing, reflexology and reiki is offered with little or no scientific evidence of benefit. That is not to say that people will not benefit from alternative therapy, we just can’t predict the outcome with any level of certainty.
Why are athletes turning to alternative therapies?
I can guarantee that Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps are monitored and treated by conventional Western medicine practitioners. In fact, the medical team of every major country consists of the very best doctors, physiotherapists and massage therapists in the business. As every major country is receiving the same level of medical care, some athletes are willing to try alternative therapies in an attempt to gain a competitive edge. Therefore if a trial of alternative therapy such as cupping or kinesio taping results in a superior performance of feeling of well being, they are likely to continue that treatment.
So what are the common alternative therapies used at the Olympics?
- Cupping – A local suction is provided to the skin via the use of heat or suction. This causes the skin to be drawn upwards and is thought to increase blood flow and ease pain.
- Kinesio Taping (see blog) – K-tape is a thin, elastic cotton tape applied to the skin, designed to stretch and allow movement. It is thought to reduce swelling, improve mobility, reduce pain and improve body awareness.
- Magnetic Therapy – Static magnetic fields are applied to the body, usually via the use of magnetic jewelry such as rings and necklaces in an attempt to improve blood flow.
- Nasal Strips – A small strip is applied to the nose to increase the cross sectional area of the nasal cavity and reduce airway resistance.
- Compression Garments – The use of snug fitting, elastic sportswear is thought to reduce muscular fatigue and improve recovery. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of compression garments.
Western medicine and allied health practitioners are bound by strict regulations set by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. It is illegal to advertise unrealistic treatment benefits or claim superior results over competitors. Consumers should be aware that treatment received from such health professionals is based on sound scientific research. Some alternative therapy providers may take advantage of our desire for a quick and easy fix. Hopefully this blog improves your ability to make an informed decision regarding the treatment you choose to receive. Talk to our experienced physiotherapists at My Physio Perth’s Sorrento clinic for more information on conventional and alternative therapy.