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Kinesio Tape 101

Kinesio Tape
What is Kinesio Tape?

Many people have heard of Kinesio Tape before. You may have seen it on athletes when watching sporting events, but are unsure of what the tape actually does.

Kinesio Tape is different than other tapes. It is constructed of 100% cotton and elastic fibers that are latex-free and breathable. This makes wearing the tape comfortable for the majority of skin types ranging from pediatric to geriatric.

The material in which the tape is made out of also allows the patient to wear it in the shower, simply patting it dry, as well as during exercise (sweating) etc.

How Does it Work?

A lot of people think that Kinesio Tape must contain some sort of medication because of how well it works, but that isn’t the case.

Kinesio Tape helps to facilitate the body’s natural healing process by prolonging the benefits of the manual therapy performed in the clinic.  The tape microscopically “lifts” the skin to help alleviate pain, decrease inflammation, promote circulation, reduce muscle tension, and improve joint support and muscle control.

How is the Tape Applied?

Kinesio Tape can be used for multiple reasons, as seen above, and how to apply it depends on the effect that is trying to be accomplished.  For everyone, it is important that the area being taped is as free from hair as possible to improve the wear time of the tape.  The skin must be free from oils and lotions. Rounding the ends of the Kinesio Tape before application is also beneficial to prevent the corners of the tape from catching on clothing.  The tape is heat activated, simply by rubbing over the top of it once it is on the patient’s skin; by doing this it also helps the tape to adhere better.

What are the Benefits of Kinesiotape?
  1. To support a joint: There needs to be 50% tension placed on the center of the tape, the part supporting the joint, with both ends of the tape being placed with 0% tension.  This can be done, for example, over the Ac-joint on someone’s shoulder.  
  2. To facilitate a weak muscle:  The tape will be placed from the muscles origin to the muscles insertion with 50% tension on the tape, after the tape is anchored to the skin.  
  3. To inhibit an overused muscle: The tape will be placed from where the muscle inserts to where the muscle originates with only 25% or “tape off” tension.  For example, if someone has an overactive upper trapezius muscle, the tape would be applied from the shoulder up the side of the neck to the point where the patient’s hair starts or, if they are bald, to the base of the skull.
  4. To decrease swelling/edema:  It is important to always tape from the most proximal aspect of the body to the distal aspect of the body when taping for swelling to promote circulation.  The tape needs to be cut into small strips with space in between the strips so the area of swelling is not completely compressed still allowing for small amounts of fluid to appear.  
  5. Postural support/reminder:  The Kinesio Tape is flexible so it is not strong enough to hold a joint completely in one position (all though it can help with this), but it can be used as a postural cue.  For example, if someone has very rounded shoulders, applying the Kinesio Tape to the top of the shoulder while having the patient pull their shoulder back, and then pulling the tape down and across the shoulder blade towards the spine will give that patient a cue to pull their shoulders back every time they try to round their shoulders forward as they will feel the pull of the tape on their skin.
What are the Negative Side Effects of Kinesiotape?

One of the best things about Kinesio Tape is that the negative side effects are minimal and generally not severe.  Patients with poor skin integrity, skin that tears easily, open sores or skin allergies to adhesives are not great candidates for the tape, but all other skin types are fair game.  If, in the off chance, a patient does have a reaction to the tape it generally involves minor itching, redness or general irritation in the place in which the tape is placed.  If the patient notices any adverse symptoms the patient can simply remove the tape slowly, to avoiding tearing the skin, and wipe the area clean, removing any adhesive that may still be left.

Morgan Hop, PTA