Kinesiology tape can help improve circulation, support muscles and joints, and prevent muscle injuries. People with arthritis in the knee can use kinesiology tape on their skin to alleviate pain and improve knee function.

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If an individual has a condition or injury that affects their functional mobility, they may benefit from using kinesiology tape. Arthritis causes painful inflammation in the joints and can reduce a person’s range of motion.

In this article, we outline what kinesiology tape is, how it works, and how it may benefit people with knee arthritis.

Kinesiology tape is a type of fine, breathable, and stretchable dressing. It is usually cotton or a cotton blend. People wear the tape on their skin, often around a joint or muscle, typically during exercise or when doing sports.

The tape’s elasticity does not restrict the application area, meaning it does not impact a person’s range of motion.

Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor, developed kinesiology tape in 1973. He hypothesized that an external component could aid the function of muscles and other tissues.

Many athletes and sportspeople wear kinesiology tape when active to provide their muscles and joints with extra support and to avert injury.

Arthritis causes inflammation in the joints. This can result in the breakdown and gradual loss of joint cartilage, which can cause a person to experience pain and difficulty moving.

Kinesiology tape may be an effective treatment for knee arthritis. A person can apply the tape to help reduce pain and improve their range of motion.

One small 2017 study involved 42 people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Half the participants received kinesiology tape, and the other half received a placebo tape.

The study authors found that the kinesiology tape resulted in better pain relief, improved walking, and improved knee-flexion range of motion, compared with the placebo tape.

A 2019 study following 141 participants with knee OA showed that wearing kinesiology tape for 3 consecutive days was beneficial. The participants wearing the kinesiology tape reported reduced pain and joint stiffness and improved knee function, unlike the participants who wore a sham tape.

Another small 2019 study involving 10 older adults with knee OA found that using kinesiology tape on the knee had a positive effect on pain reduction, walking, and balance.

Learn more about knee OA here.

A person may find it useful to tape the knee if they are experiencing:

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to provide full knee support using kinesiology tape.

  1. Take a full piece of kinesiology tape, fold it in half, and cut rounded corners around the folded end of the tape. You will be left with two smaller pieces of tape.
  2. Place the first half of the piece of tape horizontally just below the knee cap. Place this piece with 80% stretch.
  3. Place the second half of the tape on top of the first half with 80% stretch.
  4. Take a new piece of tape and peel the backing off one end. Lay the tape down the thigh until the other end sits just below the outer side of the knee cap. Once this is in place, stick the top end of the tape to the thigh to provide an anchor point.
  5. Slowly remove the remaining backing and gradually apply the tape down the outside of the thigh with 25% stretch. This piece should run down the outer edge of the knee cap and wrap around the front of the knee. Apply 50% stretch to the section of tape that runs alongside the knee.
  6. Take the final piece and remove the backing off one end. Apply it next to the top of the second piece on the opposite side of the thigh.
  7. Slowly remove the backing and gradually apply the tape down the inside of the thigh with 25% stretch. This piece should run down the inner edge of the knee cap and wrap around the front of the knee. Apply 50% stretch to the section of tape that runs alongside the knee.
  8. To finish, give all of the tape a rub to create friction. This creates heat and helps the adhesive work properly.

Many factors can impact the effectiveness of kinesiology tape. Below are some do’s and don’ts for applying this kind of tape.

Do’s:

  • Clean the skin carefully before applying the tape, using rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or a pre-taping skin cleaner.
  • Round the corners of each strip before applying. This helps prevent the corners of the tape from lifting up prematurely.
  • Rub the tape from the center toward each end after applying. To activate the adhesive, rub the tape, ensuring it sticks firmly in place.
  • Trim or remove dense hair if applying tape to that area of the skin. Fine hair should not be a problem, but long or dense hair could prevent the tape from sticking correctly to the skin.

Don’ts:

  • Avoid applying kinesiology tape immediately after exercising or showering.
  • Do not apply kinesiology tape to damaged or irritated skin. This means avoiding placing tape over rashes, cuts, and sunburn.
  • Try not to touch the adhesive side of the tape when applying it. Leave some of the backing on when handling and gradually remove it when applying the last of the tape.
  • Do not stretch the tape all the way to the ends with 100% stretch when applying. Only fully stretch the center section of the tape and apply the final few inches on either end with no stretch at all.
  • Do not rip the tape from the skin when removing it. Gently peel away the tape from the skin while pressing down on the untaped part of the skin.

When a person applies kinesiology tape to their body, the tape recoils slightly and gently lifts the skin. This helps create a microscopic layer between the skin and the tissues beneath it.

The tape can apply pressure and support to muscles and joints while still allowing blood and other bodily fluids to move freely in and around the injured muscle or joint.

Also, using kinesiology tape can help create added space inside a joint, which can help reduce the risk of joint irritation.

Dr. Kase suggests that the use of kinesiology tape can:

  • lessen pain
  • reduce swelling
  • improve muscular activity
  • improve joint alignment
  • provide functional stimulation
  • provide mechanical correction or support

Kinesiology tape is a fine, breathable, stretchable tape that individuals can wear on their skin. The tape does not restrict a person’s range of motion and offers support to their muscles and joints.

People can wear kinesiology tape to offer extra support to muscles and joints during exercise or in daily life.

Kinesiology tape may be an effective treatment for arthritis and muscle and joint pain. Studies have shown that kinesiology tape improves range of motion and reduces pain for people with knee arthritis.