Chances are good that you’ve seen a sport star on TV with colourful plasters on their arms or legs. This is called kinesiology taping and it’s not there to make a fashion statement, yet it serves a very precise purpose. The more well-known term for kinesiology tape is: “kinesio tape”, “KT tape” or “strapping”. It is a type of stretchy tape that is applied directly to your skin with the aim of protecting an underlying injury or even enhance performance. Physiotherapists use kinesio tape in various ways to protect tissue and prevent injuries.

What exactly is kinesio tape?

In the 1970’s a Japanese man called Kenzo Kase developed kinesiology tape. It’s a type of sports tape that is designed to provide drug-free pain relief and lightweight support to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The best way to describe it is that it’s an elastic strip of material, typically used to hold or fasten something. KT tape is typically made of a durable fabric like cotton, nylon, or synthetic materials with specially formulated adhesive. This way, you can comfortably wear it for days at a time, through showers and sweat alike, because it sticks to your skin, without having to fasten it.

Kinesio tape is not the same as bandages, because a bandage doesn’t stick to your skin. Instead, you can compare kinesio tape to a type of plaster. Physiotherapists use kinesiology tape as part of their treatment and rehabilitation process and don’t consider it a one-strap fixes all approach. However it has its place among many other techniques and tools we use to promote recovery. It is a temporary technique, that keeps on working hours and even a few days after your treatment session. This allows us to ensure you are safe to move and perform at your best.

Why we use kinesio tape

Kinesio tape is used by physiotherapists to treat various musculoskeletal conditions. It might look like a very superficial fix, but you’d be surprised at the amount of support it can give. We use all the tools at our disposal to achieve, accelerate and control healing. In some cases we need to limit motion, in another enhance the weak. Kinesio tape is one of the ways we use to bring on a change.

The two main reasons we use kinesio tape are to encourage your recovery from an injury or to prevent injuries. It has been shown that it helps to relieve pain and it limits instability. In a way, kinesio tape can be compared to wearing a brace. Using a brace while you recover from an injury is necessary at times. However, a brace often feels very uncomfortable and limiting. It isn’t always practical to exercise or play sports in a brace. That is where kinesio tape comes in, it is much less obstructive, and it still gives the necessary support.

The adhesive used in the tape is heat activated, meaning the sun, sweat and a hot shower causes it to stick even more. This makes it ideal to use in sports. No risk of bandages coming loose, or a brace slipping out of place.

Healing Effects of Laser
  • Eases pain
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Supports injured joints
  • Assists with instability
  • Decrease swelling
  • Provides compression
  • Improve blood supply to injured tissue
  • Helps to improve nerve pain
  • Supports nerve interface tissue
  • Decrease muscle spasm
  • Stimulates muscle contraction
  • Prevents further injury
  • Maintain good biomechanics during movement

“2-5% More muscle power. It might not sound like much, but the compound effect is quite surprising.

– 2% faster, further, stronger.”

The technique of applying kinesio tape

Our physiotherapists always use kinesio tape as part of their treatment, in conjunction with other treatment techniques. We are qualified to know whether or not you’ll benefit from strapping, and exactly how to apply it. Typically, it takes a few minutes to apply and lasts for a few days. It can be applied to all kinds of musculoskeletal injuries to achieve a particular goal, whether it be to reduce pain, activate a movement pattern, shift forces off vulnerable structures, or give stability and support to injured tissue.

To start off with, our physiotherapist will evaluate your condition properly and get a clear understanding what’s involved. We need to classify and diagnose the injury we are dealing with, because each injury requires different ways of taping. After that, your physiotherapist prepares the area that needs to be strapped. You’ll be asked to expose the skin in the area and you might be asked to shave the hair in the area, as the adhesive sticks much easier on smooth and clean skin. Your skin is then cleaned and dried off. Sometimes, it is necessary to use an extra adhesive spray before applying KT tape. You will then be positioned in the correct way, and then kinesiology tape is expertly applied. Usually, people get up and say that the end result feels extremely comfortable.

At the end of the session, your physiotherapist will ask you to test the affected movement again to compare what you are feeling. You’ll feel an instant change and improvement.

Different types of application

Kinesio tape can stretch from 120% to 140% of its original length. As a result, when the tape is applied in a stretched way, it will ‘recoil’ back to its normal length, creating a pulling force on the skin. Different tensions and applications of KT tape has different effects. Even the same condition can be taped in various ways depending on the purpose we must achieve. Support, unload, activate, deactivate or modify forces along a line of contraction.

  • Muscle fascilitation: When a muscle has been injured and needs support, this technique can be used. The KT tape will be applied with stretch in the direction of the muscle contraction. It can stimulate and correct a muscle contraction.
  • Muscle inhibition: Muscle imbalances and overactivity can lead to pain and fatigue due to a muscle being overused. Kinesio tape can be applied in such a way that it feels like it is blocking your movement. Usually, it is applied in the opposite direction of the muscle contraction perpendicular to the muscle fibers. It can be a great help to give a fatigued or dominant muscle some rest.
  • Mechanical correction: Kinesio tape can be applied around a joint in such a way to support a safe position. Thus, aiming to support and correct normal biomechanics. This aims to shift forces away or towards a different movement pattern by activating a muscle group.
  • Lymphatic drainage: Using this technique, the KT tape is cut into a few thinner strips and applied to form a network of support over your skin. This way, it lifts the superficial layers of your skin and helps to improve circulation. The pressure of swelling can be relieved and bruising can improve a lot quicker.

Our physiotherapist knows exactly how much tension to apply and which technique to apply to suit your problem the best.

Changes you’ll be able to feel


Around each joint in your body, there are different nerve endings that pick up movement, pain, pressure, and temperature. These are called mechanoreceptors and nociceptors. These nerve endings connect to nerves, which connects to your spinal cord, which in turn connects to your brain.

When KT tape is applied to your skin, the mechanoreceptors are stimulated. A special type of mechanoreceptor, called proprioceptive nerve endings, are stimulated with strapping. These sensors help your body to be aware of your position in the space around you. Kinesio tape helps to improve your awareness, by giving a joint or muscle the necessary support again.

Pain gate theory

With the feeling of pain, the nociceptors are stimulated. As the signals of pain travel up your spinal cord to your brain, they travel through different checkpoints, where only the most important signals continue on. So, when kinesio tape is applied, there are signals of supportive pressure and increased proprioception that travel together with the pain signals. Your spinal cord regulates the flow of traffic in these signals and prioritizes the important ones first. Pressure and motion over your skin takes priority, which leads to pain signals backing up at the checkpoint.

Now, less pain signals are able to pass through, meaning you will feel less pain. This is called the pain gate control theory. And this is how applying KT tape relieves pain.

Changes on a cellular level:

When an area in your body is injured, it typically feels sore, swollen or stiff. Often, due to the inflammation and swelling, there is a build-up of fluid around or inside it. With normal joint movement, the fluid and blood in our tissue circulates and give our tissue the nutrients it needs. However, if there is a build up of fluid, it causes pain due to the increased pressure. The extra fluid build-up prevents normal cellular healing, because dead cells can’t be carried away or white blood cells can’t reach the area.

It is a known fact that circulation improves with movement. So, when KT tape is applied, it causes a lifting effect in your skin and superficial layers of tissue, which encourages the normal exchange of fluid on a cellular level and decreases a build-up. Ultimately, this eases your pain and speed up your tissue’s recovery.

In the presence of pain – Motor neurons shuts down

When tissue is injured, chemical and nerve signals to the area is diminished. A protective mechanism kicks in where the small nerve endings called motor neurons lag to fire. These motor neurons are the plugs that controls the muscle contraction, and when these motor neurons delays firing up the muscle, we get unsynchronized muscle contractions. Your body automatically detects a problem and recruits muscles surrounding the injured site, leading to more load on these structures including ligaments, joints and muscles.

Kinesiology tape is designed in a wave form that mimics the facia and pattern of recruitment, to stimulate and activate these motor neurons – even then pain is there. This minimizes the compensation.

In a normal system, Kinesiology tape is used to activate these motor neurons to enhance a particular pattern of movement up to 2% more muscle power. It might not sound like much, but the compound effect is quite surprising. Two percent faster, further, stronger.

What will kinesio taping feel like?

Kinesio tape feels like comfortable, but strong pressure or lift from the tape, directly where it has been stuck to your skin. It is applied with as little pain as possible and leave you feeling better. Strapping can be applied to more than one area at a time. It is always part of a combined treatment session, which included other massage or soft tissue techniques and exercises to improve your overall pain and mobility.

At most, Kinesio tape feels slightly limited or stiff, but that is often to protect an injured joint. Watch out for skin irritation or any allergic reactions on your skin like redness, itchy or burning under the tape.

After removing the tape, some redness may be visible, but should settle in 30 minutes. If lines on your skin persists for more than a day, you must be cautious applying KT tape again. Wait for your skin to recover before it’s reapplied. We ask patients to remove the KT tape before they come in for their next session, just to allow your skin to breathe before it’s taped again.

How long does it take to apply kinesio tape?

Often, it takes a few minutes to prepare the area and apply KT tape. It is applied at any time during your treatment session but often at the end, after your skin has been cleaned.

Some things to take note of:

  • Kinesiology tape last for about 3 – 5 days.
  • As you move tension dissipates and must be re-applied.
  • You are allowed to shower or bath with it on. KT tape will dry by itself afterwards.
  • Kinesio tape can be applied just before a sport game or race. Usually, its maximum effect is after 1 hour of taping.

How many times should I be strapped to feel like it is working?

You will feel the effect of strapping immediately, however it works best if it can be administered repeatedly for a few weeks. Kinesio tape can last for up to a week, but the effect often wears off as the tension in the tape releases. That is why its adapted in each treatment session.

Your physiotherapist will discuss a treatment plan with you, to give you an idea of how long it will take for your condition to improve and how often treatment is needed. In some cases we’ll need 6-8 sessions. Mostly we see you twice during your first week, and once a week for the next two weeks and then once every second week in the next month.

What can I do at home to ensure kinesio taping is effective?

Unfortunately, the effect of kinesio tape might be temporary if the real cause of the problem isn’t addressed. At Well Health Pro, our physiotherapists look at the bigger picture and discuss the causes of your pain with you. With physiotherapy treatment, it is important to note that strapping is used as a tool to achieve a desired goal.

Remember, you see your physiotherapist for an hour at a time. Most good physios teaches you how to strap for your specific problem, and explains what we want to achieve, so you can keep up the recovery between treatment sessions. Be sure to check the KT tape and your skin for any allergic reactions like itching, redness or burning feeling over the tape.

Take care to slowly tear off the tape and not rip your skin off, here’s some guidelines to follow when removing the tape:

  • Remove the tape 1 hour after you’ve played a game or participated in a competition.
  • Take the tape off while its dry and cool, heat (from sweating or a hot shower) causes it to stick even more.
  • Peal up the edges of the tape, and slowly remove it in the same direction of the hair growth
  • Keep one hand on the tape, and the other on your skin.
  • Never pull away or lift up your hand away from your skin – as this will tear your skin off.
  • Use an oil based cream to soak the KT tape for 5 min before you remove it.

Cost of kinesiology taping

There are certain medical aid rates for kinesio tape as a treatment, but they are always used as part of a complete treatment consultation. We regularly get asked if we could “just strap my …” and our reply is always, “We have no idea what we’re taping it for.” First we must understand what’s going on, then we can decide on the best treatment. Which might not even include taping. So, you will never be paying for only strapping. Kinesio tape in isolation will not fix your problem. It’s the complete treatment package that shows the real improvement.

Medical Aid Code – 407

The description for the code 407 is: Immobilisation. This means that something was immobilised (prevented to move). This code describes the property of protecting injured tissue. It is used when any type of taping or strapping is applied, because of the immobilising effect it has on your injury. Our practice does not charge extra for each cm of KT tape used. It’s all included in the consultation. Most good medical aids offer re-imbursement for kinesio taping.

Does it make a difference to have an experienced physiotherapist apply kinesio tape?

The experience and skill of your physio makes all the difference to identify and apply the technique accurately and with precision. Strapping yourself is something that you could do or copy from a YouTube video, but you might feel it is ineffective or risk making it even worse. Pre-cut tape is available purely because it rides the wave of all the patients that’s been stunned by its effects. Be cautious when using the tape without understanding “why”. You may not have the same results you’ve hoped for.

Our physiotherapists have years of clinical experience and in-depth knowledge of your body’s anatomy. They understand different painful conditions and injuries and will know exactly what kind of taping will be suitable for you. If your physiotherapist feels it is appropriate, they can teach you how to strap yourself. Especially, when you might have to do in the future, just before a game or event.

We’ve found many patients try to strap themselves, but they missed the most important step in the diagnostic process – understand the scope and stage of healing you’re in. Applying the wrong type of tape or over the wrong areas can cause more harm. Know what you’re dealing with, before you start to use kinesio tape.

Conditions that respond well to kinesio tape

There are many other conditions and injuries that can benefit from Kinesio tape, but more importantly is the purpose we want to achieve.

Contra-indications to kinesio tape

  • Previous allergic reactions to plaster or latex

  • Open wounds

  • Skin infections

Q&A about kinesio tape

Strapping typically lasts for three to five days, even if you shower or swim with it.

No. Kinesio tape is produced in different colours, but all of them are equal in strength and tension.

No, ideally, you the KT tape should feel comfortable and supportive. If you feel that you are having an adverse reaction to the tape, then rather take it off and report it to your physiotherapist.

Usually, the tape comes off quite easily after it has been worn for a few days. It might leave a few traces of glue on your skin, but that can be washed off easily.

Yes, it usually lasts well even if it gets wet. When submerged in water for a long time, it might come off sooner.