By popular demand, here’s a quick introduction to using kinesiology tape. I am not officially trained in any way so if you’re unsure about taping please consult your physio or similar. This guide aims to provide a few hints and tips that will get you started with taping and help you decided if its right for your needs.
Kinesiology Tape is a super stretchy kind of strapping tape that can be worn for days at a time. It that can be used to reduce pain, manage swelling, provide joint support, improve posture and improve proprioception all without restricting movement as much as traditional splinting. Tape is traditionally used in clinical settings by physiotherapists and other professionals to manage a variety of orthopaedic, muscular and neurological conditions. Since kinesiology tape has become widely available its use has become popular among sports people and those with physical impairments alike.
I have been using kinesiology tape for a number of years to manage acute joint injuries, chronic instability and poor proprioception. I know a lot of other people with hypermobility syndromes who do too. The research on kinesiology taping is sadly lacking but patient experiences are overwhelmingly good.
I have trialled a number of brands, most kinesiology tapes are latex free but for sensitive types I would recommend doing a small test patch in case you’re allergic to the adhesive.
I personally found the adhesive in ‘Pro’ varieties of tape too strong. The stronger the adhesive the more skin I seem to lose when I take the tape off. I regularly use Alpidex, REA Tape and Levo Tape simply because they are good value for money and come in a great range of colours. Rock tape and the original KT also come highly recommended but are a little more pricy.
When applying tape I personally find that preparation is the most important step. How well the tape sticks and how easily it can be removed can both be improved with good preparation.
Before I even think about applying tape I made sure the area I’m taping is hair free and recently exfoliated. Hair causes big issues, the tape sticks to the hair as supposed to the skin which makes the taping less effective it also makes removing the tape a lot more painful. For those who don’t tolerate hair removal well I would recommend at least trimming the hair as short as you can. Exfoliation helps to remove dry / dead skin, this makes the tape last as long as possible and also helps to reduce the amount of skin damage when removing the tape.
If you have naturally very soft skin and you find tape peels off you might want to try a pre-tape adhesive. I use one Mueller Tape adhesive which does help keep the tape on a few days longer. Pre-tape sprays add an extra layer of sticky to help hold the tape in place.
Once you’ve prepped your skin it’s time to prep your tape. If you’re new to tape you might want to start with pre-cut tape sections, these are not great value for money but are much easier to use if you’re not confident in your tape skills. If you’re starting out with a roll of tape then you’ll have to experiment a bit with different lengths.
Remember when cutting tape that it is stretchy! If you’re taping your knee or shoulder you don’t need to cut the full length of the bit you’re taping. Below are two photos, one of the tape totally un-stretched and the other stretched to about 80%. You can see it is stretched from just under 3 inches to just over 4 inches.
Once you’ve cut your tape to size I recommend rounding off the corners. Usually once you’ve had the tape on for a day or so the corners will start to lift off and if the corners catch on clothing it can make the tape peel back. By chopping off the corners you reduce the chances that your tape will peel off. The picture below shows the left hand corner rounded off and the right hand corner before trimming.
Once you’ve trimmed the corners and prepped your skin it’s time to tape. There are loads of kinesiology tape tutorials on YouTube and I have a kinesiology tape Pinterest board which might give you some ideas.
When taping for joint instability I aim to take the strain off my wonky ligaments by supporting them on the outside with tape. Because of my hypermobility my joints sometime hang out of socket so the aim of the tape is to pull them back where they belong.
Since I’ve taped a lot I’ve worked out the perfect techniques for me but when I started out I often looked at anatomy diagrams to take an educated guess about where to apply my tape.
When I start applying tape I always work from the extremities towards the centre of the body. In this case I’m going to start from mid way down Addz’s upper arm and work towards his spine (marked with a line of dots in the photo above).
Start by removing about 2 inches of the backing paper, you can either do this by peeling it back or just ripping it and removing the end section.
When applying tape the first part needs to be applied without any stretch, this acts as an anchor for the stretched part and also stops the tape peeling off.
I usually apply about 2 inches with no stretch as shown in the photo.
The main body of the tape can then be applied at about 80 to 90% maximum stretch. Just make sure you leave a few inches at the end for the non-stretched anchor. I usually peel back the backing as I smooth the tape down, following the muscle lines.
As you can see in the pictures above, I’ve followed the muscle lines in the shoulder so that the tape pulls the arm up and in towards the body.
Always try to work with the minimum amount of tape you can, you might find that just one or two pieces provides a little bit of support and a lot of sensory feedback so that you can function as normal. If you’re dealing with serious instability or wonkieness you might need a little more tape.
** Pro Tip ** If you’ve used tape adhesive you might find areas not covered by tape are still really sticky, simply use makeup remover and a cotton pad to get rid of excess adhesive.
Once you’ve applied your tape it can last pretty well for about a week, some people are particularly tape resistant so you might not get it to stick that long. Kinesiology tape lasts fine in the shower, just avoid too many bubbles and pat dry as supposed to rubbing it. The same goes for swimming pools.
If your tape starts to peel a little at the corners you can trim the un-stuck bits with scissors rather than taking off all the tape and starting again.
If you have delicate skin you might find that taking the tape off early means you peel a lot of skin off too so always try to remove tape in the bath or use products designed to remove adhesive.
I really hope you’ve found this useful. As always, questions and comments are welcome and please feel free to share.