Facebook Pixel

What is Kinesio Tape and How Does it Work?

By HERWriter
Rate This

Do you remember watching the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing where volleyball player Kerri Walsh wore some unusual black tape on her shoulder? The tape is called kinesio tape and it has gained popularity outside the sports world for a variety of conditions from back pain to TMJ.

Kinesio tape is not like other athletic tape such as the type used for McConnell taping. Kinesio tape is stretchy and provides light support during movement. Regular athletic tape is rigid and is intended to restrict movement.

Kinesio tape was invented in Japan 30 years ago. It is a latex-free hypoallergenic cotton tape that is the thickness of the outer layer of skin. It is intended to stay on the skin for two to five days and can be worn during a shower.

Kinesio tape, which can be purchased in all kinds of colors (the color doesn’t make any difference), can be self-applied with guidance from instructions or an online tutorial or by a skilled Kinesio tape practitioner who is knowledgeable about the anatomy and motion of the muscles being taped.

There are several theories about how Kinesio tape works. Kinesio tape pulls the upper layer of the skin, the dermis, away from the muscle layer below allowing for a space to be created. In this space, lymph flow is thought to be improved as well as permitting reduced pressure on nerve endings that are sending impulses to the brain.

“Kinesio Tape alters the information that these receptors send to the brain and causes a less reactive response in the body,” according to Medicine.net, which may contribute to less pain and allow the body to return more easily to regular movement.

Other actions kinesio tape is thought to perform are to increase muscle contraction to improve strength and performance, assist in joint alignment, reduce stress on tendons and ligaments, and improve both blood circulation and lymphatic fluid flow.

Medicine.net even reports that kinesio tape has been found to help improve scars and improve contractures in some patients.

There has been research that demonstrates the benefits of kinesio tape but the data has been variable and the groups tested small. One study of 41 whiplash patients found small improvement in pain level and cervical motion within 24 hours of application if properly applied but the researchers were unsure if their statistics showed enough significance. (3)

Another study in 39 chronic low back pain patients “displayed a significant reduction in pain after treatment” and reported “KT (kinesio tape) leads to pain relief and lumbar muscle function normalization shortly after its application; these effects persist over a short follow-up period.” (4)

There are two main providers of kinesio tape:

The original developer’s brand called Kinesio Tex Tape at http://www.kinesiotaping.com/kinesio/index.html only sells their tape online for about $15 per a 16 foot roll.

KT tape at http://www.kttape.com/index.php and can be found at stores such as Sport Authority for $13 for 20 precut strips.

An article in the L.A. Times suggests that it is unclear whether either product could really accomplish the lifting of the skin to assist in healing as claimed. Dr. John Wilson, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison submits that pain is subjective and the tapes may just “provide stretchy, colorful placebos”.

However, given how un-invasive and inexpensive kinesio tape is, it might be worth a try. Purchasers should spend time learning how to do self-application or seek the assistance of a PT or other trained individual.


1. Kinesio Taping Method and Kinesio Tex Tape. Medicine.net.

2. The Healthy Skeptic: The sticky issue of kinesiology tapes. Los Angeles Times online. April 04, 2011|By Chris Woolston. Retrieved Dec. 31 2011.

3. González-Iglesias, Javier et al. Short-Term Effects of Cervical Kinesio Taping on Pain and Cervical Range of Motion in Patients With Acute Whiplash Injury: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy. JULY 2009 Vol. 39, No. 7. Abstract:

4. Paoloni M et al. Kinesio Taping applied to lumbar muscles influences clinical and electromyographic characteristics in chronic low back pain patients. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med.2011 Jun;47(2):237-44. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment3 Comments

Nice post. The Kinesio Taping Method is felt to cause physiological effects on several body systems. The systems affected by the body are thought to include the circulatory/lymphatic, neural, muscular, and fascial systems, as well as the joints. Thanks.

June 21, 2012 - 1:41am

Yes, they are different tapes and sources entirely. So really to be totally accurate, they are both kinesiology tapes, not kensio tapes.  Thanks for restating that so it is clear to readers. 

 Dr. Kase took the more formal medical route of distributing his tape to medical type providers and sources which is appropriate as they seem to promote having specially trained individuals place the tape on patients. So Kinesio Tex Tape is their trademark name. 

As often happens, KT, another distributor took the oppportunity to reach the market through sports stores. This has happened with other products.

Whether one tape is better or not, I can't say.  One blog post I read indicated that he thought the KT tape did not stick as well to his skin so clearly there are differences. 


January 2, 2012 - 3:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

This a a good overview on a great treatment option. There are numerous manufacturers of the elastic therapeutic tape, but only Kinesio Tex Tape is entitled to use the Kinesio brand name, established by Dr. Kenzo Kase. "KT Tape" is one of the tapes that are available, but is not made by or associated with Kinesio or Dr. Kase.

January 2, 2012 - 3:20pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Muscle Injuries

Get Email Updates

Muscle Injuries Guide

HERWriter Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!