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 in the right place. Learn everything you need to know in Kinesiology Tape 101!
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
Other claims about muscle activation, circulatory, and proprioceptive mechanisms
Get the Facts About Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology Tape’s Proven Benefits
So, what does kinesiology tape really do? Check out the research below to learn more about the tape’s proven benefits. We’ll also cover some benefits kinesiology tape doesn’t seem to have.
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
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
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
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
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
The direction of tape application does NOT change muscle activation or strength4
How does kinesiology tape work?
How does kinesiology tape work? Honestly, we really don’t know, but there are several theories on how it might work.
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
Choosing Your Kinesiology Tape
Looking for the best kinesiology tape? There are several brands of tape, but here are a few reasons why we think TheraBand Kinesiology Tape is the best choice.
It has best in class adhesion. You want a tape that will stick during exercise, showers, and daily life for up to 5 days.
One study compared the adhesion of 3 brands of kinesiology tape over 5 days. The study found that TheraBand Kinesiology Tape did not significantly change in adhesion over 5 days (retaining 70-76% of its original adhesion). In contrast, both Kinesiotex® and KT Tape® brands significantly declined to 59% and 35% adhesion, respectively.5
It’s easy to apply with the correct tension.
TheraBand Kinesiology Tape has Xact Stretch Indicators that make it easy to tell when your tape is stretch is 25% and 50%, just look at the hexagons on the tape. (This information is on the back of the tape too in case you need a reminder during application.)
No latex and non-irritating formula
TheraBand Kinesiology tape has a low level of irritation making it a little safer for people with sensitive skin who want to use tape
It’s backed by a company that researches and supports its products
Check out our TheraBand Academy database where you can search research on kinesiology tape
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.
The Y-Cut: Used for larger areas
The Fan Cut: Used to reduce swelling
Learn how to make these cuts and when to use them in the video below!
Basic Tape Application Tips
Prepare the skin
Clean and dry the skin
Remove any excess hair
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
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
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
Rub to activate adhesive
Use the shiny side of the backing to rub the entire length of the tape and activate the adhesive
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
See these tape application steps in action below!
Kinesiology Tape Application Videos
Ready to apply your tape? Follow along with the videos below.
Page, Phil. (n.d.). Kinesiology Taping in Clinical Populations: Does it Work #TapeTuesday. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3n4VZJX
Moore, R. (October 2016). How to Use Kinesiology Tape to Reduce Swelling. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2K9ISsg
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
Page, P. (April 2016). Can You Handle the Truth about Kinesiology Taping? #TapeTuesday. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2JPW9qf
Topp, R. et al. (May 2018). Adhesion Of Three Brands Of Elastic Therapeutic Tape. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3nfKgsl
Moore, R. (February 2016). Kinesiology Tape Tension Guidelines #TapeTuesday. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3oBd7aD
Moore, R. (July 2016). Does Kinesiology Tape Tension Matter?. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3a44ocO
Page, P. (March 2015). Evidence supports the clinical use of kinesiology tape to reduce pain. Performance Health Academy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/33X6SWN
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this site, including text, graphics, images and other material, are for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.