Kinesiology Tape 101: Everything You Need to Know

You may have seen the colorful tape on Olympic athletes, other elite athletes, or even dedicated high school players. But if you’re still not sure what kinesiology tape is, why people use it, or how to apply it, you’re at the right place.

Learn everything you need to know in Kinesiology Tape 101!

What is kinesiology tape?

Kinesiology tape is a therapeutic tape that is used to support muscles and joints and help reduce pain. It is often used by athletic trainers, athletes, and physical therapists.

What are the benefits of kinesiology tape? Why do people use it?

There are a variety of benefits that people state that kinesiology tape offers. Some of these are supported by studies while research has not validated other claims. Kinesiology tape is often used to:

  • Reduce or relieve pain
  • Increase blood flow
  • Reduce swelling
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Other claims about muscle activation, circulatory, and proprioceptive mechanisms

Kinesiology Tape’s Benefits

So, what does kinesiology tape really do? Check out the research below to learn more about the tape’s proven benefits.

  • Pain Relief
    • Tape applied after DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) significantly decreased pain and increased range of motion compared to the no tape condition1
    • Another study found that kinesiology tape may be an effective pain relief intervention similar to ice or heat, but should be used alongside other proven therapies like exercise or manual therapy (rather than in lieu of)8
  • Reduced Swelling
    • Kinesiology tape and physical therapy (PT) for 4 weeks resulted in significantly reduced pain and swelling compared to PT alone1
    • Studies have found that using kinesiology tape to reduce swelling resulted in faster reduction of edema2
  • Increased Blood Flow
    • Kinesiology tape increased blood flow to the skin where it was applied3
    • However, tape tension and convolutions (hills and valleys created on the skin where the tape was applied) did not significantly affect the outcome
  • Older Adult Fall Risk
    • Kinesiology tape improved dynamic surface balance when applied to the lower leg of women with history of falling1
    • But it did not improve balance on stable surfaces

Research on Applying Tape

  • Tension
    • Lower tape tensions are associated with stronger effects4
    • One study found no effect on shoulder pain or function when progressively increasing tape tension each week (0 > 25% > 50% > 75%)1
  • Specific Patterns
    • There is no evidence comparing specific patterns for specific diagnoses, many studies on the same diagnosis use different tape patterns and more research is needed on tape patterns4
  • Convolutions
    • There is no evidence that kinesiology tape lifts the skin. One study found that convolutions were not needed to reduce back pain. There are no studies looking at blood flow below the superficial skin4
  • Certain Directions
    • The direction of tape application does NOT change muscle activation or strength4

Possible Theories

  • Gate Control Theory: When you apply tape on top of the skin, the sensation is sent into the central nervous system, and overrides the pain signal so it doesn’t reach the brain
  • Changing muscle activation
  • Increasing circulation

How to Apply Kinesiology Tape

How much tension should I use? When to Use 25% vs 50%

TheraBand Kinesiology Tape makes it easy to ensure you get the right amount of stretch, just follow the indicators.

  • Stretch to 25% or less for…
    • Acute conditions to help reduce swelling and inflammation and for neurological effects6,7
  • Stretch to 50% or less for…
    • Subacute care to help support muscles or joints or reduce pain 7
  • Learn more about tape tension in the infographic or video below

What are the main types of kinesiology tape cuts?

There are 3 common kinesiology tape cuts used when taping.

  1. The I-Cut: The most used kinesiology tape cut. The precut strip roll is all I-Cuts which can easily be turned into Y or Fan cuts too.I-cut kt tape
  2. The Y-Cut: Used for larger areasy cut kt tape
  3. The Fan Cut: Used to reduce swellingfan cut kt tape

Basic Tape Application Tips

woman with tape on back
  1. Prepare the skin
    • Clean and dry the skin
    • Remove any excess hair
  2. Cut the tape and remove the backing
    • Cut an appropriate length of tape and round the edges. Remember, if you’re applying tension the tape should be slightly shorter than the length of where it’s being applied 
    • Tear the backing leaving 2-4 centimeters on each end for anchors. Each grid marker on the back of the tape is 2 cm. Create two little tears on each side of the backing and then gently pull to separate the two pieces while keeping the backing on the tape
  3. Apply the anchor
    • Remove the backing from one anchor end and apply the anchor without tension. Gently rub the tape to activate the adhesive
    • Don’t touch the adhesive or it won’t stick as well
  4. Apply the tape with desired tension
    • Remove more of the backing leaving 2-4 cm at the end as the second anchor
    • Use the TheraBand Xact Stretch Indicators to apply with 25% or 50% tension and then gently rub the tape
    • Remove the rest of the backing and apply the anchor with no tension and then rub it
  5. Rub to activate adhesive
    • Use the shiny side of the backing to rub the entire length of the tape and activate the adhesive
  6. Remember the proper care after tape is applied
    • You can shower or swim with the tape applied, just pat it dry afterwards
    • If your skin has any redness, itching, or irritation, remove the tape. You may be allergic to the adhesive

References

  1. Page, Phil. (n.d.). Kinesiology Taping in Clinical Populations: Does it Work #TapeTuesday. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3n4VZJX
  2. Moore, R. (October 2016). How to Use Kinesiology Tape to Reduce Swelling. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2K9ISsg
  3. Turner, S. (October 2017). Does Kinesiology Tape Really Increase Blood Flow? Don’t Stretch to Conclusions. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/39WHnsr
  4. Page, P. (April 2016). Can You Handle the Truth about Kinesiology Taping? #TapeTuesday. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2JPW9qf
  5. Topp, R. et al. (May 2018). Adhesion Of Three Brands Of Elastic Therapeutic Tape. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3nfKgsl
  6. Moore, R. (February 2016). Kinesiology Tape Tension Guidelines #TapeTuesday. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3oBd7aD
  7. Moore, R. (July 2016). Does Kinesiology Tape Tension Matter?. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3a44ocO
  8. Page, P. (March 2015). Evidence supports the clinical use of kinesiology tape to reduce pain. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/33X6SWN

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