KT Tape: How It Works

Posted by: Paul Dhaliwal Comments: 0

Have you ever seen marathon runners with colorful tape on their legs and wondered — why? 

If you have spent any time in an athletic community, chances are you have seen people wearing tape on various parts of their bodies. This tape is known as kinesiology tape and is designed specially to provide people with extra support during strenuous exercise. 

In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about KT tape, including what it is, how it works, the application process, and its benefits.

Keep reading to learn all about KT taping!

What is Kinesiology Tape?

Kinesiology tape (also called KT tape for short) is a type of therapeutic tape that can help to alleviate pain and provide additional support when worn on the body. 

Characterized by its stretchiness, KT tape is typically made from a blend of cotton and nylon. To support a person’s range of motion, the tape is designed to imitate the elasticity of real skin. This support is achieved by applying pressure around the muscles and tissues where the tape is applied. 

KT tape originated as a means to help enhance the performance of professional athletes.

Nowadays, however, KT tape is used by many healthcare professionals and amateur athletes alike. This type of tape helps ensure the body and limbs have the support they need when practicing strenuous exercise or recovering from an injury. 

Is KT Tape the Same as Athletic Tape?

KT tape is not considered the same as athletic tape, though they do share similar purposes.

Athletic tape is designed specifically for relieving discomfort or chronic pain associated with working out or playing sports. Whereas KT tape is made to provide the body with extra support and a wider range of motion, athletic tape is made to restrict movement and maintain stability. 

For example, athletic tape is commonly used among runners to help prevent shin splints and other conditions caused by running. While KT tape can also be used for this purpose, athletic tape is specifically intended for short-term use and to be removed after an activity is finished.

By contrast, KT tape can be left on the body for longer periods. 

Types of KT Tape

Kinesiology tape can be applied in a variety of ways to serve different needs.

The types of KT tape refer to the different taping methods that can be achieved using this tape. Sometimes, the tape may even need to be cut to form the right configuration or shape.

Here are the most popular types of kinesiology taping methods:

  • X Strip: An X strip formation is generally used when covering a large portion of the body, such as the hamstrings. To form the X, the strips are crossed over on a sensitive area, such as the back of the knee or around the hips. 
  • I Strip: The I strip formation is used to provide support to specific muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments. Some of the common uses for I strips include placing them on rotator cuffs, Achilles tendons, lower backs, and quadriceps.
  • Y Strip: A Y strip serves a similar purpose to the X strip but covers a smaller surface area on the body. Y strips are often used to offer extra support to the knees by helping to prevent pain and stress from impacting the mobility and function of the knees. 
  • Fan Strip: Fan strips use multiple I strips to make a fan formation, covering a very large area of the body. These types of tape formations are specifically used for reducing swelling and increasing lymphatic drainage. Fan strips can be purchased pre-cut into the fan formation, or you can use a regular roll of KT tape that is wide enough to cut into the fan strips. 
  • Lift Strip: A lift strip is a smaller tape formation used to target highly specific areas on the body, such as a muscle knot or bruised area. These strips are commonly compared to bandaids and help to treat minor injuries and bruising. 

How Does KT Tape Work?

Kinesiology tape is used as part of physical therapy to help people recover from injuries, strains, and other exercise-related conditions. 

Build-ups of lymphatic fluid are often responsible for inflammation and swelling, which can impact the ability of a person to perform athletically. KT tape works by lifting the skin to allow lymphatic fluid and white blood cells to flow more easily through the body. 

In addition to enabling a better flow of lymphatic fluid, KT tape also helps the body eliminate bacteria and waste from its cells. 

An important component of KT tape is the proper application of it on the body. 

Without the right application of KT tape, it can be easy to miss out on the benefits you are hoping to achieve. This makes it crucial to consult with a healthcare professional — such as a chiropractor or physical therapist — on the correct ways to apply KT tape before beginning to use it. 

What is KT Tape Used For?

KT tape is used for a variety of different purposes, from treating injuries to supporting athletic activity.

The uses of KT tape include: 

  • Pain relief from minor injuries and strains
  • Enhanced stability without an inhibited range of motion
  • Reduction of inflammation and swelling
  • Tissue and muscle decompression
  • Muscle facilitation and support

Additionally, KT tape is often recommended as a treatment and supportive tool for many specific health conditions related to athletics. Examples of such conditions include shin splints, tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries, and ligament hyperextension (such as those that occur in Turf Toe). 

How Do You Apply KT Tape?

As discussed earlier, KT tape can be placed on the body in several different configurations. The method of taping you select depends on the condition you are hoping to treat and your overall health goals. 

In terms of how to physically apply KT tape to the body, the best plan of action is to first discuss KT tape applications with a healthcare professional. Once you have, you can then choose to apply KT tape at home, where you will follow five key application steps:

  1. Clean: Cleanse the skin of any dirt, oils, lotions, or other debris before application. Rubbing alcohol is generally the best substance to use. Allow your cleanser to dry fully before applying the tape. 
  2. Shave: Trim or shave the area where you plan to apply the tape. This not only helps prevent discomfort from body hair being pulled on by tape but can also help increase the adhesiveness of the tape. As a result, the tape is more effective when applied. 
  3. Place: If you are new to applying KT tape, you should figure out where and how you plan on placing the tape before actually applying it. This will help you determine what areas of your body need to be cleaned and shaved, as well as give you a better idea of how to place the tape when you are ready. Avoid crossing the tape over itself unnecessarily. 
  4. Apply: KT tape should be applied to the skin at least one hour before beginning a workout or athletic activity. The tape is heat sensitive and adherence is activated through the application of heat. Many people rub the tape with their hands after applying it to the skin to help build up this heat and ensure the tape adheres properly to the skin. 
  5. Remove: KT tape can typically be left on the skin for between 3 to 4 days. When you are ready to remove the tape, first lift and edge up off your skin. Then, hold your skin tight with one hand and pull the skin away from the tape. Pulling on the tape instead of the skin can cause irritation.  

How Long Does It Take for KT Tape to Work?

Once applied, KT tape needs between one to two hours to fully adhere to the skin.

As mentioned in the section above, rubbing over the top of the tape after application can help activate heat and allow the tape to adhere to the skin properly. 

After the appropriate amount of time has passed, the KT tape begins to work its magic.

For the best results, the tape should be left in place for 3 to 4 days. Most people report feeling the results of the tape within 24 hours of the initial application.

What are the Benefits of KT Tape?

KT tape has many benefits that make it a worthwhile supply to keep in your athletic first aid kit. 

The benefits of KT tape include:

  • Decrease Inflammation: Decreasing inflammation is one of the key steps to take when recovering from a strenuous workout or injury. KT tape helps to decrease inflammation by lifting the skin away from the trigger point. 
  • Increase Circulation: As discussed, the lifting sensation that KT tape causes enables lymphatic fluid to flow more easily through the body. This leads to better overall circulation of oxygenated blood and helps to flush out irritants and bacteria. 
  • Improve Posture: If placed in an area on the body like the lower back, KT tape can provide the support needed to improve your posture without causing strain or stress on the area. This ultimately helps your weak muscles to perform better as you work on your posture. 
  • Boost Athletic Performance: Above all else, one of the top benefits of KT tape is its ability to boost athletic performance. With KT tape, you can better support your muscles and joints, increasing your range of motion and ensuring your body has the right amount of stability. 

Final Thoughts

Kinesiology tape serves an important role in the lives of both amateur and professional athletes. 

If you are experiencing recurring pain, soreness, inflammation, or other issues when exercising, it may be worth your while to check out KT tape and give it a try.

For the best possible first experience with KT tape, reach out to a local chiropractor or physical therapist. Not only can these professionals help you learn how to properly apply KT tape but they can also assess your physical health and determine if you have any more serious underlying issues. 

Remember that the key to KT tape is to give it time to adhere to your skin, so always apply it at least an hour prior to your activities!