How Does Kinesiology Tape Work?

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It’s likely you’ve seen kinesiology tape decorating limbs of the people around you on trips to the gym or just out and about. The often neon colored tape that can be stuck to almost any body part tends to stand out. You may have even considered using it before to recover from an injury. But what is it for and how does it work?

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What is kinesiology tape for?

Kinesiology tape is different from athletic tape. While athletic tape is used to support or restrict motion, kinesiology tape is more flexible and is used to aid motion as well as stop muscle spasms and increase circulation. In order to accomplish those tasks, the tape needs to be applied correctly. If you’re not sure how to apply the tape, it's a good idea to have a physical therapist do it for you. They are trained to apply it the right way and will understand if it's the best choice for you. It is typically applied to support joints, manage muscle pain, decrease swelling, or limit the difficulties that arise with the formation of scar tissue.

How does kinesiology tape work?

There are a few different schools of thought on how kinesiology tape works. While some believe that the tape lifts the skin gently away from the muscle just a bit to improve circulation, others believe that the real benefit comes from the way the tape affects the nervous system in that area. It’s possible that the tape changes the way that the muscles, skin, and nervous system interact in order to create a better environment for healing and inhibit pain. Still others believe it changes the structure of the collagen in that area and can even help in the management of scar tissue.

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Does it really make a difference?

It seems that with many health recommendations these days there is no straight answer. The same could be said for kinesiology tape. There are studies that conclude that kinesiology tape improves range of motion, muscle contractions around the kneecap, and can help with pain. But in the end, these studies alone just aren’t enough to draw firm conclusions. As a treatment, kinesiology tape seems to have a low level of risk for complications and is inexpensive. So, on the upside, you can give it a try and determine for yourself if this is a tool you’d like to add to your health and wellness toolkit.

Sources: Sears, Brett. “How Kinesiology Tape Is Used in Physical Therapy.” Verywell Health, Verywell Health, 6 Dec. 2019,
Lee JH. The short-term effectiveness of balance taping on acute nonspecific low-back pain: A case report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(51):e9304. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000009304
Choi IR, Lee JH. Effect of kinesiology tape application direction on quadriceps strength. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(24):e11038. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011038

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