Kinesiology Taping: A How To Primer

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Image of rolls of athletic tape used for kinesiology taping.

Kinesiology taping or KT was developed in the 1970’s by a Japanese chiropractor named Dr. Kenzo Kase. He originally developed it to help with decreasing pain and to help with promoting soft tissue healing.  Many athletes now use this taping to help with injury recovery, muscle performance and pain. It’s also used by athletic trainers and physical therapists to help patients with various injuries.

KT is a stretchy, cotton-mesh fabric tape that is latex free, breathable and waterproof. The tape was designed to mimic the properties of the skin. The glue itself has a wavelike pattern that is meant to imitate the pattern of a fingerprint. The glue is body heat activated, and the tape allows the skin to breathe and moisture to evaporate.

What Body Parts Can I use Kinesiology Tape On?

Any, really. You can use it over muscles, ligaments and joints. Avoid using it over known fracture sites or over areas of skin irritation (see below for more precautions/contraindications).

Benefits of Kinesiology Taping

  • Decrease muscle fatigue
  • Improve muscle facilitation (activation)
  • Inhibit muscle activation (help decrease activity in a spasming or injured muscle)
  • Decrease pain
  • Decrease edema or swelling by promoting lymphatic drainage
  • Support painful joints, such as after a sprain
  • Support strained ligaments or tendons
  • Postural support by providing proprioceptive input/awareness

Precautions to Keep in Mind

A “precaution” is something you just need to be mindful of. It doesn’t mean you can’t use it under these circumstances. Precautions include:

  • fracture
  • congestive heart failure
  • diabetes
  • over areas of skin irritation (scrapes, cuts, burns/sunburns, rash)

Contraindications to Keep in Mind

A “contraindication” is a hard “no,” meaning that if you meet any of these criteria, do not use KT:

  • malignancy
  • infection
  • cellulitis
  • open wound
  • DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

How Do I Perform Kinesiology Taping?

  1. Tape either comes precut, or in a roll that you can cut to the length you want or need. I prefer the roll because that gives me better options if I need a longer or shorter piece. If you get a roll of tape, roughly measure out on your body how long you want the piece of tape to be.
  2. Then, cut the tape about 1 to 2” shorter than what you need. The tape will be stretched when you apply it, so you need to accommodate for this when cutting to size.
  3. After you cut it to the size you want, round the corners with a pair of scissors. This will help prevent the tape from peeling up.
  4. Tear the paper while it’s still adhered to the tape. Don’t peel the backing off from one end or peel it off completely! You want to avoid touching the tape with your fingers as this can decrease its adherence.
  5. Depending on the tape application technique, you’ll either tear the tape 1-2” from one end, or tear it in the middle.
  6. When applying the tape from the end, apply it with NO stretch at all. You want to make sure that it will stay on your skin and not peel up. When applying from the middle, sometimes there is stretch and sometimes there isn’t, depending on the technique and the desired effect you’re going for.
  7. Once you apply the first bit, either the end or middle, rub the tape to activate the adhesive. This is important to do before you put any (more) stretch on the tape.
  8. You can stretch the middle of the tape to the desired length and then again apply the last bit (1-2”) without any tension.
  9. Rub the length of the tape either with your hand or the paper you peeled off to again activate the tape’s adhesive.

Watch this Video for Instructions on Kinesiology Taping Basics:

How Long Can I Wear it For?

This sort of depends on your skin, how much you sweat/exercise or how often you’re showering/bathing. Most people get about 2-3 days’ worth of wear out of it. It’s effectiveness also decreases naturally by the end of this window. Some people can get 5-6 days out of it.

Will it Irritate My Skin?

Very rarely will KT irritate the skin. Personally, in my 15 years as a PT, I have had no one have a negative reaction to the tape, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

The tape is designed to be breathable and does not contain latex. However, if you find that your skin is itching or irritated, remove it!

Where Can I Buy Kinesiology Tape?

I like the KT brand as well as RockTape. I actually think RockTape (and the black color, for whatever reason) seems to stick better and last a bit longer, but that’s just my opinion. You can find rolls of tape, either cut or uncut on Amazon:

Image of a box of kinesiology tape made by KT tape.

Affiliate Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. 

There are other less main-stream brands available as well, but I can’t vouch for how well they work as I haven’t used any of them myself.

Some pharmacies, grocery stores and even Wal-mart carry KT. They’re typically in the section with all the shoe inserts and braces and such.

Some Other Things to Keep in Mind

  • Make sure the skin is clean and free from lotions, oils, etc. before applying it. If there is a layer or a barrier of a cream/oil of some kind, this will decrease the adhesiveness of the tape and decrease your overall wear time.
  • Wear time is also affected by where on the body the tape is placed. If it’s in an area that gets more friction than others from clothing or movement, you’ll get less wear time.
  • You can shower or bathe with the tape on. Make sure to wait at least 60 minutes before doing so after the tape is applied to ensure that it stays on. Also make sure to pat dry over it rather than rubbing it with a towel.
  • The tape is made to be breathable and wearable during exercise/perspiring and even swimming. Again, waiting 60 minutes after application is best practice to ensure that it’s adhered well.
  • If the tape starts to curl at the ends but is otherwise sticking well, just trim the ends a bit and leave the rest on so you can get more wear time out of it.

Questions/Comments?

I’d love to hear from you. Drop your questions about KT and your KT success stories below!

Other Articles of Interest:

Runner’s Knee

Exercises for Hip Bursitis/ITB Syndrome

Cross Train to Become a Better, Stronger Runner

4 Tips for Running Fast Downhill

8 Ways to Make Time for Your Runs

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