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Kinesiology Tape 101: What Is K-Tape?

At sporting events, road races, or the grocery store, you may see brightly colored cotton stripes wrapped around a person’s legs, knees, shoulders, or back. It isn’t a fashion statement. It’s actually kinesiology tape, one of the most beneficial ways to apply continual therapeutic effects to injured or sore muscles.

People of all ages find relief with kinesiology tape, or K-tape, and use it for a variety of reasons. Learn more about kinesiology tape and its benefits.

To schedule an appointment with one of our UPMC Sports Medicine experts, call 1-855-93-SPORT (77778).

What Is Kinesiology Tape?

Kinesiology tape is a thin, water-resistant, and flexible cotton strip with acrylic adhesive on one side. The tape:

  • Is latex-free
  • Can be worn for multiple days
  • Is almost identical to human skin in both thickness and elasticity
  • Provides support to joints and muscles to promote the body’s natural healing process

K-tape also provides extended soft tissue manipulation to help further the effects of physical therapy exercises and the physical kneading or manipulation of muscles and joints by a physical therapist.

Who Should Use K-Tape?

Many people use kinesiology tape because it’s versatile and easy to apply. People who find K-tape useful include:

  • Young athletes
  • Professional athletes
  • Runners
  • Individuals with muscle or joint injuries
  • Pregnant women

Therapists and trainers may place kinesiology tape on a patient to wear between therapy sessions to maximize the effects of the therapy. Athletes apply K-tape before a competition to provide additional support to muscles.

Doctors may recommend the use of K-tape for chronic conditions or injuries because one application lasts multiple days, and it doesn’t interfere with everyday life.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Basketball Injuries

When and How to Use K-Tape

How to use K-tape

K-tape can be applied virtually anywhere there’s soft tissue or muscle pain. Some of the most common injuries that benefit from kinesiology tape include:

  • Acute soft tissue issues (muscle sprains, ligament strains, and hematomas)
  • Joint swelling
  • Low muscle tone or muscle weakness
  • Systemic conditions (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus)
  • Tendinopathies
  • Post-fracture support
  • Growing pains in adolescents
  • Poor posture

K-tape can be self-applied, or a certified therapist or doctor can apply it for you. If you’re new to kinesiology tape, have a medical professional demonstrate the proper way to apply it before doing so on your own.

Benefits of K-tape

Kinesiology tape has many benefits, including:

  • Providing support to sore muscles
  • Stabilizing injuries as they heal
  • Prolonging the effects of physical therapy
  • Providing relief for swelling

K-tape also can be used on a more frequent basis to help with lactic acid buildup and bruising in muscles.

What’s Different About Kinesiology Tape?

Kinesiology tape differs from traditional strapping tape in a few unique ways.

Typically, conventional strapping tape restricts movement and keeps the injured area tight and immobile. K-tape allows the injured area to bend and move as it heals, providing support rather than limiting range of motion. Strapping tape can only be worn for short periods of time and must be removed to restore circulation, while K-tape can be worn for four to five days without risking loss of circulation.

While K-tape is a great addition to physical therapy and can help aid the healing process, it should not be used to disguise injuries or in place of traditional therapy methods.

UPMC Sports Medicine works with athletes and active people at all levels to develop individualized treatment plans designed to help them safely and fully recover from injuries. To schedule an appointment with one of our UPMC Sports Medicine experts, call 1-855-93-SPORT (77778).