How to KT Tape Knee, Shoulder, Back: Tips and Techniques

Kinesiology tape is an elastic therapeutic tape with an adhesive on one side. Kinesiology tape helps with muscle support and theoretically allows better circulation at and around the muscles. It is generically called kinesiology tape, but there are brand names with trademarks, including KT Tape® and Kinesio Tape®. Many athletes have corroborated its effectiveness in reducing muscle pain and improving performance.

Key takeaways:

What is kinesiology tape and how does it work?

Kinesiology tape is a thin cotton or cotton-blend elastic fabric that stretches, it has an acrylic adhesive on one side that attaches directly to the skin. The theory behind kinesiology tape includes lifting the skin to improve the flow of blood and lymphatics (the body’s drainage system). Improved blood flow helps muscle function, while improved lymphatic flow helps decrease swelling. In addition, kinesiology tape is believed to reduce pressure on the pain receptors.

Who invented kinesiology tape?

Kinesiology tape was invented by a Japanese-American chiropractor named Dr. Kenzo Kase. When inventing kinesiology tape, he applied current chiropractic techniques of increased blood flow to traditional Japanese medicine he had learned from his grandmother.

How to apply kinesiology tape

Finding the location to apply kinesiology tape is not an exact science, but there are general rules for placement. Here are ways to apply kinesiology tape to the knee, shoulder, and back. You can do knee taping yourself, but you'll need assistance for the shoulder and back.

Sometimes kinesiology tape comes in a roll that can be cut to any size, while other times, it is available in precut strips — both are fine for use, though the roll offers more flexibility and options for use.

How to tape a knee

How to tape a knee

A roll of kinesiology tape can be cut to any size. For the knee, it's best to use four pieces, two long (12 inches) and two short (6 inches), as shown in the figure above.

Two short pieces of tape:

  1. Peel one of the short strips to expose the adhesive.
  2. Extend the strip so it's 80% stretched.
  3. Place it below the knee and horizontally (side to side).
  4. Repeat the process with another short piece over the first piece.

Two long pieces of tape:

  1. Peel one long strip.
  2. Start with the outside of the knee and above the patella (kneecap).
  3. Extend the piece so it's about 50% stretched.
  4. Place the piece along the outside border of the patella.
  5. Finish on top of the lower horizontal pieces.
  6. Repeat the process with the other long piece, extending over the middle border of the patella.

How to tape a shoulder

How to tape a shoulder

The taping method in the image above is used for generalized shoulder pain and requires two pieces of kinesiology tape: one 12-inch and one 10-inch piece.

  1. Take one end of the 12-inch piece and slice 8 inches down the center.
  2. Attach the non-sliced end near the mid-arm on the outside.
  3. Rotate the thumb outwards (towards the back), pull the tape's forward piece without much tension, and place it in front of the shoulder as shown.
  4. Place your arm across your chest to relax the posterior shoulder muscles and place the posterior piece across the shoulder blade.
  5. Take the 10-inch piece, stretch it about 80%, then place it horizontally to cover the anterior and posterior pieces.

How to tape the back

The good news about the back is that it's the least complicated area to place kinesiology tape. However, as mentioned above, you will need some assistance to properly kinesiology tape your back.

How to tape the back
  • Place long pieces of kinesiology tape on the muscles that run up and down the back at the left and right sides of the spine, as shown in the figure above. It's best to limit the tape to the areas of discomfort and pain.
  • After the longitudinal (head to tail) pieces are placed, you can use horizontal pieces across the back, covering one or both of the longitudinal pieces.

Does kinesiology tape help with muscle pain and strain?

Yes, it does help with muscle strain and pain.

Kinesiology tape tape can be used to:

  • Increase lymphatic flow to increase drainage and decrease swelling
  • Help support the muscles, especially for rehabilitation
  • Improve athletic performance.
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Improve posture
  • Decrease pain

When should kinesiology tape not be used?

Sometimes kinesiology tape should not be used, including taping an infection, open sore, or at the site of a deep venous thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in the veins.

If there is a known skin allergy to elastic or adhesives, it's a good idea to check for a reaction by placing a small piece on the forearm.

Best kinds of tapes

You can use a brand name, such as KT Tape® and Kinesio Tape®, or a generic alternative. See which kind, quality, and material work best for you. Take into consideration that if you are in constant contact with the water or have a more active lifestyle then you might choose a waterproof kind of KT Tape.

If you have pain or muscular issues, you can try KT Tape since it’s safe. Even though scientific evidence is lacking, numerous athletes and others have given KT Tape great compliments and reviews for many years.

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