Living With Chronic Pain

How to Use Kinesiology Tape

Last week I discussed when kinesiology tape- a flexible adhesive tape- can be helpful to provide support, decrease swelling, and improve stability without limiting mobility.

Now let’s talk about how to apply it.

There are several types of “strips” recommended for different types of needs:

The “I” strip is often used to facilitate muscle action and inhibit pain as well as support muscles, ligaments and tendons. It can be used to aid the rotator cuff, hip, quadriceps muscles, Achilles’ tendon, or improve posture when placed on the mid to lower back.

Cut the length required and round the edges so it won’t pull off.  

The “I” strip is the foundation for all other strip techniques:

An “X” strip covers more area and joints that are more mobile e.g. the elbow, wrist and knee. It can also cross over multiple areas such as supporting the hamstring muscles where it attaches at the hip to the back of the thigh to behind the knee. 

Start by putting the muscle or joint to be taped in maximal stretch. cut an”I” strip a couple inches longer then the length required to cover the area. Cut downs the middle in each direction leaving 1-2 inches in the center. Tear the backing off the center, stretch and place it at the middle of the muscle or joint. Rub the tape to activate the adhesive. Then rub, activate and apply the tails and apply with no stretch around the outer boundaries.

The “Y” strip is often used behind the knee, across the kneecap or elbow. It’s typically shorter then the “X” strip and can be made by cutting the”X” strip in half or cutting the length of an ”I” strip and leaving 1-2 inches at the end. Don’t forget to round the edges before applying.

The “fan” is commonly used to control swelling in an extremity from a superficial contusion to lymphedema. Start with an “I” strip then cuts three more strips down the length of the strip to within 1-2 inches of the end. This leaves four smaller width strips that can be fanned out over the effected area. 

Image result for fan strip

The “lift” strip is often call the”band-aid.” It is placed in such a way that it helps to lift skin and tissue off muscle knots, trigger points, superficial bruised or injured areas. Start with an “I” strip.  Remove the middle portion of the adhesive backing and stretch it  75-100% and apply it to the problematic area. The smaller end pieces of the “I” strip are then laid down with no stretch.


Now let’s talk about how to tape basic areas of concern. 

The shoulder

  • Cut an “I” strip the length of the top front part of your shoulder to the side of your arm.
  • Reach your arm behind you- this puts the shoulder into an extended position.
  • Stretching the front shoulder muscles. Remove a couple of inches of the tape and place it on your upper, front shoulder.
  • Stretch the rest of the tape 25% and pull it to about a third of the way down the side of your arm. 
  • Rub the tape to make the adhesive stick to your skin.
  • Cut another “I” strip the length of the upper, back of your shoulder to the side of the arm where the other strip ends.
  • Reach your arm across your chest to stretch the back of your shoulder.
  • Pull off two inches of tape and anchor it to the back side of your shoulder.
  • Pull off the rest of the tape and stretch it 25% and pull it from the backside to the same place as the other tape sits on the mid arm.
  • It can be worn up to five days. When wet, pat dry.

The ankle

  • Cut an “I” strip the length of the bottom of your foot to a couple of inches above the lateral malleoli- the outside ankle bone. 
  • Make sure your ankle is at a 90 degree angle.
  • Start with one end at the bottom of the heel where it meets the arch.
  • Pulling at 25% tension, attach the other end to the outside of the lower leg after covering the the outside ankle bone.
  • Cut two more “I”strips long enough to wrap around both large bones on each side of the ankle.
  • With 25% tension, cover the inside ankle bone, then wrap around the outside of the ankle and cover the outside ankle bone.
  • Take the last strip and wrap in the opposite direction- cover the outside ankle bone, then wrap around and the inside ankle bone with 25% tension.

The wrist

  • Clean the areas to be wrapped- hand, wrist and forearm.
  • Cut a piece of tape the length of the tip of your thumb to the tip of your fifth digit when all your fingers are spread wide.
  • Form a “Y” strip by cutting 2 inches length wise in the middle of the tape.
  • Extend both the forearm and wrist and place each end of the Y tape, without tension, to each side of the palm.
  • Keeping the tape smooth, with an extended wrist, pull the tape with 25% tension to the crook of the forearm.
  • Cut a second piece the length of your palm and tape, without tension, from your thumb to the pinkie while your hands and forearm are facing up.

The knee

  • Cut two “y” strips the length of your inner thigh to the kneecap. 
  • Put the bottom part of the “Y” strip at the mud thigh.
  • Slightly stretch one tail of the “”Y” strip around one side of the kneecap and ending just below the center of the kneecap.
  • Slightly stretch the other tail in the other direction so the kneecap is completely surrounded.
  • Take the other “y” strip and put the bottom several inches below the kneecap.
  • Take one tail and with a slight stretch, wrap it around the kneecap ending on the outside of the first strip.
  • Repeat on the other side with the second tail end of the”Y” strip.
  • Cut two “I” strips the length of below the kneecap to where the “y” strip ends on the thigh.
  • Place the middle of the “I” strip below the kneecap.
  • Slightly straighten the knee and pull each side of the “I” strip upward on each side of the thigh on the outside of the previously placed “Y” strips. 
  • Place the middle of the second “I” strip slightly lower than the first one and pull it onto each side of the thigh outside the previously placed “I” strip.
  • Rub all the tapes to make sure they adhere.
  • When ready to remove, soak the tape in oil and gently pull away from the skin.

Always clear with your provider and never use on an open wound or inflamed skin. Taping, in the right circumstances can be an effective way to help stabilize muscles and joints and give pain relief when active.


-https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tape-a-knee

https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/when-why-and-how-to-tape-your-knee

-https://www.performancehealthacademy.com/two-ways-to-tape-the-wrist-rigid-tape-and-kinesiology-tape.html

-https://www.verywellhealth.com/support-your-shoulder-with-kinesiology-tape-2696040

-https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tape-an-ankle

-https://www.performancehealth.com/articles/kinesiology-tape-101-everything-you-need-to-know

-https://www.verywellhealth.com/different-types-of-kinesiology-tape-2696483

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