Kinesiology Tape: A Tool for Support and Reducing Pain

Kinesiology tape is becoming more and more popular as a method of pain relief. It can be applied properly by healthcare professionals like physical therapists, chiropractors, athletic trainers and massage therapists. But what you may not know is that with the right tape and the right instructions—and sometimes a helper for hard to reach places—it can also be applied at home.

Check out these tips for choosing the right tape and applying it with confidence.

What It is and How It Works

Kinesiology tape is a stretchy, cotton fiber tape that’s latex free and often comes in bright, fun colors. You can use it in many areas, such as the low back, foot, achilles, ankle, knee, shoulder, and neck.

Kinesiology tape helps support your joints and muscles, while temporarily reducing pain. This is thought to happen because of the Gate Control Theory—where an outside stimulus (kinesiology tape) is attached to the skin, and the sensation created overrides the pain signals going into the brain.

You may have heard that it can reduce acute swelling or enhance your performance. However, there isn’t much research out there to prove whether or not kinesiology tape actually does those things.

“We know that kinesiology tape works in reducing pain. In a recent meta-analysis, kinesiology tape was shown to significantly reduce chronic musculoskeletal pain, but the specific mechanism is unknown,” explains Dr. Phil Page, PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS, FACSM.

Kinesiology Tape for Pain Relief: The Modality, The Myths, The Legends

What to Look For

There are a ton of brands offering kinesiology tape, which can make choosing the right one a little confusing. Here’s what you want in your kinesiology tape:

  • It stays put and doesn’t irritate your skin. The adhesion of a kinesiology tape is where its benefit comes from. Meant to last multiple days, this tape shouldn’t peel up or get loose before it’s supposed to. TheraBand® Kinesiology Tape has been proven to stick better than KT Tape® Pro and Kinesio® Tex Gold™ tape over a five day period, meaning it allows you to reap the benefits of kinesiology tape for a longer period—without having to reapply. Depending on what tape you use, it may stick for a while, so make sure the adhesive is allergy tested to prevent skin reactions.
  • It doesn’t restrict your range of motion. Kinesiology tape is meant to be used on people, and people move. The support it provides is only useful if it doesn’t cut off your circulation or impede your ability to go about your life. A tape that’s stretched too much will not perform properly. In fact, overstretched kinesiology tape behaves like typical non-stretchy athletic tape, which isn’t so helpful for body parts that need to move. Mmake sure you know exactly how much you’re stretching the tape.
  • It’s easy to use. This might be the most important point—if you’re not confident applying the tape, will you actually use it? You want a kinesiology tape that shows you exactly how much tension you’re using, so you can apply it correctly (according to professional instructions) every time. TheraBand® Kinesiology Tape is the only kinesiology tape with XactStretch™ indicators to make your life easier. The visual hexagon stretch indicators right on the tape eliminate misapplication, even for beginners. Just stretch the small hexagon until it’s equilateral for 25 percent stretch. Do the same for the large hexagon if you need 50 percent stretch. It’s that easy! No guesswork, no intimidation, no wasted tape and no worries.

How to Apply Kinesiology Tape Correctly

Check out these videos and how-to guides to learn some common taping tactics from expert healthcare professionals. Armed with the right tape, instructional videos and a few helpful notes, you’ll be ready to apply kinesiology tape in no time.

Here’s a short list of tips as you get started:

  • Prep the skin before you apply the tape. Wash the application area to remove dirt, oil, creams or lotions. Remove hair in the application area.
  • Measure twice, cut once. Make sure that the tape is the proper length, then round the corners so they don’t catch on clothing (and peel away).
  • Remember to break the paper backing through the tape, keeping a bit of paper on the end so you don’t touch the adhesive.
  • Stretch & Apply. Pull the tape until the small hexagon is equal on all sides, indicating you’ve reached 25% stretch. For 50% stretch, pull until the large hexagon is equal on all sides. Gently tap the stretched tape into place, starting from the anchor and working your way to the end of the tape (the final anchor).
  • Anchor your tape. Regardless of the specified stretch, always apply the last one or two inches of tape without stretch. This keeps your tape job anchored in place.
  • Rub the tape to activate its adhesive. To make sure that your tape sticks like it’s supposed to, be sure you rub it into the skin after you’ve placed it. This allows the tape to properly adhere to your skin.
  • Keep it dry. For at least 60 minutes, let the adhesive properly bond without exercise or showering.
  • Take it off slowly. To avoid irritating your skin, press down on the bare skin closest to the tape being removed as you slowly pull the tape back.

So if you’ve been wanting to try out kinesiology tape as a method of pain relief, but haven’t known where to start, the videos and tips above can help. You don’t have to worry about being new, since easy-to-apply TheraBand® Kinesiology Tape takes the intimidation factor away. Click here to try out the XactStretch™ technology for yourself and see how kinesiology tape can add to your pain management routine.