Healthy Lifestyle

Kinesio Tape Can Be a Useful Rehab Tool

Published: Feb. 11, 2020

Whether they’re competing in volleyball, tennis, soccer or track and field events, more and more athletes seem to be turning to the colorful tape to get an edge. Perhaps you’ve even seen it on people at your local gym. 

So what is Kinesio tape? What’s it used for? And does it work?


K Tape Background

Kinesio tape, also known as K tape, is a stretchy, latex-free tape made completely of elastic fibers. It was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Japan. 

He knew that certain manual techniques for muscle pain and injury – such as massage and stretching – were helpful but temporary. He developed Kinesio tape with the goal of extending the benefit of manual treatment.  


Part of a Rehab Plan

Kinesio tape is intended to complement, not replace, rehabilitation efforts. It should be applied only by someone who is properly trained to do so, and it’s not meant to be a permanent solution to muscular problems.

The tape can be cut to various lengths, applied with varying amounts of stretch and overlapped to gain specific results. That’s why you see it used in so many patterns on athletes’ knees, shoulders, backs and other areas of the body.

But it’s not only for high-level athletes. Depending on the goal, a trained therapist can apply Kinesio tape to:

Decrease pain and relax muscles. The tape can aid in pain reduction by lifting the area over a compressed nerve. It can also allow muscle to rebuild and restore itself by taking pressure off areas that have been manually worked on. Athletes often find that Kinesio tape helps them finish an event by supporting an overused muscle, tendon or ligament. 

Aid alignment to support posture. The tape provides support while stretching with the body to allow range of motion.

Reduce swelling or edema. Kinesio tape can have a lifting effect and can support the lymphatic system, which regulates swelling and fluid backup.  


It’s Not for Everyone

People with certain conditions should not use Kinesio tape. They include:

  • Diabetes
  • Open wounds
  • Fragile skin
  • Allergies or sensitive skin
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • An active cancer diagnosis 


Talk to Your Provider

There is some question as to whether Kinesio tape really works or if people benefit from a placebo effect. Studies into its effectiveness have inconsistent findings, so it’s hard to say.

Talk with your primary care provider or physical therapist if you have questions about Kinesio tape. When used correctly, it has the potential to be an effective addition to your rehabilitation treatment.

More Resources

About the Author

Sue Schroeder, OTR/L, CHT, is an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist, specializing in the treatment of upper extremity injuries.

She helps patients find relief every day at Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest.

See more articles from Sue Schroeder, OTR/L, CHT
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