I’ve had my share of jammed and broken fingers and toes (much to my piano teachers’ horror), but I’ve never much did well with the buddy taping concept. At first, I just thought that my finger or toe hurt because, well, because it was broken. But then I started noticing that it clearly hurt worse when I had it taped than when I didn’t. Let me try to explain my thought process on this…

Take my 4th toe for example.  I was walking my son to school with my flip flops on, and he decided that he’d start doing jumping jacks.  On a pure stroke of coincidence and bad luck the bottom of his sneaker dragged across the top of my toe and twisted it until caused a spiral fracture.  Weird. Random. (gnarly toe knuckles). But- it happened.  With this sort of fracture I was perhaps a candidate for surgery if it didn’t start sticking and growing back together straight. Anyways, point being, after a few weeks in the flat as a board ortho shoe it was showing signs of good alignment and healing, and I was cleared to start doing more things.  The doctor suggested I buddy tape it if I were to go out and try getting my feet back in the sand. So I did.  My first step after taping it together jumped my discomfort level up from a 1/10 to a 4/10 on the pain scale.  that’s not good.  I re taped it – maybe I did something wrong, had it too tight.  Back on my feet for a test…. NOPE – still painful.  So I taped it even looser.  That helped.  Hmmmm….  it was so loose that it was barely doing anything. and it felt better.  it felt best without the tape.  bingo.

Here’s the mechanics behind that.  Look at your toes.  They are laying right next to each other. So it seems like taping them together would just offer stability, like a splint.  But, now watch and feel what your toes do when you take a step – particularly during the push off phase when your leg is behind you.  the toes splay out a bit, and the pressure and max weightbearing moment is slightly different for each toe.  The pressure stars at your heel, travels along the outer boarder of your foot towards your pinky toe, then radiates towards your big toe that ultimately is the last thing to leave the floor.  The buddy taping system interferes with this unique timing and weightbearing moments that contribute to balance and power.  When I had my toes taped together, my 4th toe tried to do it’s job at the right moment, but was slowed down by the middle toe.  when the middle toe that it was taped to was ready to do it’s job, my injured 4th toe was tugged in the wrong direction and had increased pain as it tried to resist.   That was the ah – ha moment, and I have never suggested buddy taping to anyone again.   What I did instead, was to use the tape to provide support for my healing toe with the anatomy in mind.  knowing how the ligaments and tendons crisscrossed at the knuckle, I cut some small strips of tape and traced the ligaments with it, then used some tape to wrap around my 4th toe individually to provide some mild compression and support for added proprioception.  Felt great. and I had the added confidence because of the brace that I created.

My feelings regarding buddy taping at the fingers are the same, but for slightly different reasons.
Let’s say I took a volleyball dig at the wrong angle and my left hand ring finger knuckle got jammed and broke a few months before my wedding. (true story). I quickly took off my engagement ring before it swelled up (yeah, I could tell right away it was more than just the usual jam), and hoped that I’d be able to get the rings back on before people started wondering if I had gotten cold feet. lol. I didn’t buddy tape it, despite popular suggestion. I did the same thing that I did for my toe – just gave it some support in alignment with the anatomy around the knuckle. The middle finger is the suggested buddy for the ring finger. Sounds like a good idea – It is bigger and tougher and sometimes the bold one that sticks up when the others don’t (lol). But I didn’t think it’d make a good big brother to my injured one. When my injured finger gets the message from my brain to do something radical (like make a tight fist for a dig, or stretch and open wide for a block) it has the sense to back off a little and take it easy. When my middle finger gets the same messages, it wouldn’t have the sense to control itself since it isn’t the injured one. And that’s the ah-ha moment. Taping my injured cautious finger to my bold and uninhibited middle finger would have been counter productive. Once again, my injured digit would be forced to do something outside it’s comfort zone and the resistance against it would cause more pain.

Buddy taping seems to make sense because you provide the injured digit with a splint. However, because of the dynamic nature of said splint, it actually creates more problems than it solves.

Feel free to share with me your thoughts! 🙂