KT Tape for Knee: Benefits, Uses, Taping Guide, and More Info
KT Tape: it’s the biggest thing to hit sports medicine since the invention of, well, sports medicine. Sometimes called elastic therapeutic tape, Kinesio tape, kinesiology tape, or even just KT or K-tape, KT Tape has taken the athletic and physical therapy by storm, and for good reason: it’s got a cutting-edge design that helps provide structure and support for athletic injuries, making it easier to treat these injuries and get you back up on your feet more quickly.
But what is this miraculous new treatment? What’s it made out of and how does it work? Can you use it to treat a bad knee, for example, in the same way a knee brace would? How do you even apply KT Tape for the most effective joint support? There are just so many questions revolving around this athletic therapy tape—questions that need answers. Well, don’t worry; that’s why we’re here. Strap in, because we’re about to go on a wild ride into the world of KT Tape, uncovering the secrets behind this new phenomenon in joint health and revealing what KT Tape for the Knee can do for you.
What is KT Tape and How Does It Work?
So KT Tape seems like some magic sports medicine tape, but don’t be fooled: there’s nothing magical and mysterious about this athletic tape. To the contrary, the success of KT Tape is all about science. It’s not even all that new! In fact, the first versions of KT Tape emerged back in the 1970s when Japanese-American chiropractor Kenzo Kase developed an extra-strong adhesive athletic tape in order to keep the joints of his patients in proper alignment after they left his office.
Kase worked long and hard to find an alternative to the adhesive tapes of the day. In fact, he poured research into this therapeutic tape, designing it to mimic many of the characteristics of human skin. Its thickness and its elasticity, its breathability, and its flexibility were all inspired by the function of human skin. The result was a cotton-based tape that was combined with an acrylic adhesive backing. Partially heat-activated to allow it to stick to hold fast to the body and latex-free to ensure placement wouldn’t cause rashes or other allergic reactions, Kase’s new “Kinesio tape” was born. Slowly but surely it’s been growing in popularity ever since, until it began regularly showing up on Olympic athletes at the 2008 Summer Games and beyond.
Capable of stretching up to 140 percent of its length before being applied, KT Tape can be pressed down onto the skin while stretched. The tape then pulls on the skin and whatever underlying joint there is beneath it as it tries to snap back to its original shape, helping keep muscles, tendons, and ligaments in proper alignment to avoid pain and to promote healing. Available either in pre-cut strips or rolls of uncut tape that you can trim to any desired length, KT Tape has become known as a flexible, versatile, and powerful tool for physical therapy and sports medicine, especially when it comes to treating sports injuries!
What Does KT Tape Do for the Knee?
At this point it’s become pretty clear that KT Tape is a brilliant and innovative way to help keep muscles, tendons, and ligaments in position in order to reduce pain and increase stability. But how, exactly, does KT Tape work when it’s applied to a specific joint? In this case, we’re talking about what KT Tape does for the knee, one of the most important joints in the body and one that sees a lot of punishment day-in and day-out. And not just from athletic activity, either; while running, jumping, twisting, diving, and other sports-related activities can do a number on this joint, even just simple wear-and-tear on your knee can lead to pain, swelling, and other problems as well.
Yet KT Tape could be just what the doctor ordered for your achy knees. While using athletic tape on a joint to provide it additional stability and support is nothing new, the unique characteristics of KT Tape take this one step further. In fact, KT Tape can work not unlike a knee brace, providing compression to keep your joint in alignment thanks to its elastic properties. At the same time, KT tape might be more advantageous than a simple knee brace as you can trim this athletic tape to the exact length you need to accommodate the dimensions of your body. This is something you can’t do with a traditional knee brace, as they come in only a few generalized sizes.
So what does this end up providing your knee? For one, KT Tape can help provide better knee stability, provide some relief for knee pain, and may even be beneficial for anyone suffering from arthritis in the knee. Let’s take a look at each of these uses one at a time to see just how KT Tape works to provide this support and relief, shall we?
KT Tape for Knee Stability
An unstable knee joint is one that’s all too prone to accident and injury. Instability can lead to some painful situations, especially if you twist your knee in a direction it’s not really designed to go, which can result in bruised or even torn tendons and ligaments. Such injuries can be painful and very slow to heal, especially considering how much we use our knees every day just in mundane situations like walking around the home or office.
Providing your knee joint with the extra stability it needs to keep in its proper alignment helps reduce the chance of suffering from bruised and torn tendons and ligaments, even as you go about your day. The compression KT Tape provides pushes back against those twisting forces, keeping your joint in alignment; meanwhile, the flexible nature of KT Tape means that your joint will still be able to move in ways that it needs to in order to function properly. As an overall result, taping your knee joint properly can help prevent injury from occurring in the first place.
There’s more than that, though. Using KT Tape to stabilize your knee joint can also help with healing and recovery after a painful joint injury. On top of it all, using KT Tape in this way provides a better fit, and possibly better stability, than a more generic, one-size-fits-all approaches such as a knee brace that doesn’t offer the same breathability and long-wearing comfort that KT Tape can provide. With KT Tape capable of being left on the body safely for up to 4 days without losing any benefit, it becomes clear that the kind of stability the tape offers often blows traditional knee braces right out of the water.
Does KT Tape Work for Knee Pain?
Very similar to how KT Tape works to provide better knee joint stability, KT Tape works to also help for knee pain relief. It’s all thanks to the characteristics of this specialized athletic tape: its ability to stabilize the knee joint and to keep its tendons, muscles, and ligaments aligned properly. KT Tape does this by relieving pressure on your knee as it pulls on your joint, gently but firmly, into the correct position.
Experiencing knee pain usually occurs when you’re actively using your joint. Bending the knee while going down a flight of stairs, standing up from a sitting position, or even simply walking or running can cause pain and inflammation, often because of an underlying injury to your joint that’s causing a painful instability. Supporting your joint and keeping it from moving in ways that it shouldn’t helps to reduce and relieve that pain, and that’s exactly what KT Tape’s role is.
Pain and instability go hand-in-hand when it comes to joint support, especially a joint as complex and crucial as the knee. Misaligned tendons and ligaments can become inflamed or torn, and that means every step can be excruciating without supporting your knee joint externally to keep its mechanical components into place. In this way, treating stability issues with KT Tape also does double duty as treating pain, as immobilizing your knee in ways to prevent painful movement while also providing the compression and support to help your joint move in the ways it’s designed to offers even more relief by reducing the pain you experience while engaging in physical activity. Whether you’re actively recovering from a painful sports injury or preventing an old one from flaring back up, KT Tape comes to the rescue — and again in ways that a traditional knee brace might not be able to.
Does KT Tape Work for Knee Arthritis?
Finally, we come to the knee joint problem that’s on everybody’s mind: arthritis. Arthritis in the knee, more specifically osteoarthritis, is a painful condition where the bones and cartilage of the knee joint are worn down over time, reducing the joint’s natural ability to bend without stiffness and pain. Knee arthritis can be especially debilitating, considering how much we use our knees on an everyday basis for just about everything, and being in constant knee pain whenever you go or do anything isn’t fun, to say the least.
There are few treatments for arthritis in the knee that don’t involve reconstructive knee replacement surgeries. Most of these treatments are woefully inadequate, as there’s simply nothing to be done without rebuilding the knee somehow. There’s only so much that anti-inflammatory medications can do to reduce the pain caused by your knee joint grinding against itself, after all! Yet after the development of KT Tape, new ways to treat knee arthritis using this specialized elastic athletic tape have emerged, with many of them showing some serious results when it comes to pain reduction.
Applying KT tape to the knee in ways that reduce stress on the joint is one of these ways. Taping methods often differ when compared to taping a knee for stability, for example, as arthritis relief is much less dependent on compression and much more for lifting the skin and underlying joints due to the elastic snap-back action of KT tape. This often translates to a medial force, which is one directed from the sides of a joint to its center. This is the opposite of lateral force, which is from the center out towards the edges, which is less useful for arthritis sufferers but is often part of a KT Tape treatment for other knee injuries.
How to Use KT Tape for Knee: Step-By-Step Instructions
At this point using KT Tape on your knee can help provide you relief for a number of issues. Whether you’re suffering from arthritis, you’ve got an old injury that you don’t want acting up, or you’ve got a new injury that needs help healing, KT Tape can provide you the type of stabilizing compression you need to help keep you in less pain and discomfort in ways that a knee brace might not be able to do as well.
But how do you actually apply KT Tape to the knee? You can’t simply wrap it around the joint blindly and hope for the best. No, KT Tape has to be positioned with precision to ensure it’s supporting the right parts of your knee joint and stretched to the right elasticity before application so that it doesn’t provide too much or too little compression. To do otherwise means that all that athletic tape you just applied is either not doing the job or even possibly making things worse by pulling your knee joint further out of alignment, and the last thing you want is to make a knee problem worse because you didn’t know what you were doing!
Don’t panic, though. Part of this KT Tape guide is all about proper preparation and application so that you support your knee joint the right way. From before you even peel that KT Tape off the roll to after you remove it from your body after being on for an extended time, here’s a fully-fledged, step-by-step guide to using KT Tape for your knee.
Step 1: Choose Your KT Tape
There are a few things you’ll need to do in preparation for applying KT tape to your knee. First, you need to purchase the type of KT Tape that’s the most appropriate for your taping needs. Traditional KT Tape is made from breathable, elastic cotton, but some versions feature synthetic fibers that offer stronger support over a longer length of time as well as ancillary benefits such as being moisture wicking. This synthetic tape is a better choice if you want to have your knee taped for 4 days or more at a time or if you anticipate the type of heavy physical activity that will require the enhanced breathability and additional toughness.
Another thing to consider is whether you want to purchase a roll of KT Tape that comes pre-trimmed at specific lengths or if you want to use an untrimmed roll that you can select lengths yourself. KT Tape is easily trimmable with a pair of scissors to any length required, but if this is something you don’t want to have to deal with then a pre-trimmed roll is an excellent alternative.
Besides trimmed versus pre-trimmed and traditional versus synthetic, the only other choice you need to make is largely an aesthetic one. KT Tape comes in many different colors, so if you want anything besides basic black you have some options from which to choose. Sometimes, having two or more different colors of KT Tape on your body helps with visibility during placement and removal, while others still enjoy the contrast for visual appeal. However, some feel using different colors is unnecessary. The choice is yours.
Step 2: Preparing The Application Area
Once you’ve chosen the type of KT Tape you plan on using, it’s time to prepare the area of your skin that you’ll be applying this tape. In this case, we’ll be preparing not just the knee itself but the skin above and below it to the length of several inches up the thigh and down the calf.
For the most part, preparation is going to be straightforward. You want to ensure that the skin on and surrounding your knee is as clean and dry as possible. This means removing any dirt as well as ensuring you’re not using any sorts of oils or lotions on your skin either. Doing this prepares your skin for the best adhesion when it comes to keeping the tape in place without risking it slipping o coming off.
Part of this preparation involves setting enough time aside before whatever activity you’re anticipating that will require knee support. While KT Tape can be applied in minutes, in order for your knee joint to receive the full benefit of the tape it’s strongly recommended to begin the preparation and application process around an hour in advance of any activity. Whether this is participating in a competitive sport or simply going about your day, you’ll get the best results from the tape if you do your prep work at least an hour beforehand.
Step 3: Application
Finally, we come to the part where the rubber meets the road: applying KT Tape to your knee. There are a variety of ways to tape the knee depending on the type of pain you’re trying to prevent or the support you wish to provide to the joint. Taping for general knee pain or swelling will take a different form than taping for full knee support, for example, and we’ll go over each in turn. Be aware, however, that this is basic information and for more detailed KT Tape application it’s best to speak to a chiropractor, physical therapist, or another expert on using KT Tape to knee joints.
General Knee Pain Application:
For general knee pain, begin in a sitting position with one leg straight and the other leg, the one with the knee pain, bent at an angle. Pull a 10″ strip of KT Tape off the roll (either from a pre-trimmed roll or one you need to trim yourself) and tear some of the backing off one end of the piece of tape (the paper backing should tear easily with a little twisting). This is what will be used to anchor this piece of KT Tape to your knee.
Take this anchor piece and place it vertically, approximately three to four inches below your knee, on the front of your calf, with the rest of the tape above it. Press the anchor piece down securely in place without stretching it, rubbing it in order to encourage the heat-activated adhesive to stick to your skin. Now, remove the backing from the rest of the KT Tape and split it down the center in a Y-shape, along either sides of your knee and leaving your kneecap uncovered, and again without stretching. If your KT Tape isn’t perforated down the center to make a Y-shape, you may have to cut it yourself.
Once you’ve laid both sides of the KT Tape down against your skin, take a new 10-inch strip of KT Tape and tear another anchor similarly to the first. This anchor is placed vertically as well but in reverse, with the top of this new strip of KT Tape above the center of your knee (between the two pieces of the original strip). Then, create an inverse Y with this new piece by splitting it vertically, crossing over the first Y and terminating the strips on bare skin, all without applying tension. Now, straighten your knee; if the KT Tape wrinkles slightly, you’ve applied it properly. If not, you may have applied too much tension during application, so bend your knee once more and adjust your tape placement.
Full Knee Support Application:
For full knee support similar to how a knee brace would support your joint, placement is significantly different. While the first method involved just two pieces of 10-inch KT Tape, this will involve an additional piece of tape trimmed to 5 inches long. If you’re not using a pre-trimmed roll, be aware that best practices for trimming your KT Tape by hand includes rounding the corners slightly, as this improves overall adhesion and prevents the corners from catching on clothes or curling up.
First, take your shorter strip of KT Tape and create a central anchor point in the middle of the tape, leaving the paper backing on both terminal ends to create a place to grip. Then, while safely holding these terminal ends, stretch the center of the strip of KT Tape to about 80 percent of its elasticity and place it horizontally across your skin just under your kneecap. Once you’ve applied the center of the KT Tape, peel the remaining backing off the terminal ends and apply it to your skin, taking care not to use any tension on the ends. If you feel this piece of tape isn’t appropriately secure, you can use another 5-inch strip of tape and apply it over the first in the same manner.
Next, take the first full 10-inch strip and anchor one end 10 inches above the kneecap and slightly to the side (the goal is to keep the kneecap itself free and clear of tape). After anchoring this new strip, wrap it around the outer edge of your kneecap while applying around 25 percent maximum tension. Then, increase tension to around 50 percent while wrapping the KT Tape around the lower knee. Finish by anchoring the strip with zero tension over the existing 5-inch strip. Finally, repeat this procedure along the other side of your knee with the remaining 10-inch strip, taking care to mirror placement and use the right amount of tension.
Step 4: Removal
After you’ve applied your KT Tape and you’ve finished the activities it was meant for, or if you’ve had your KT Tape on long enough that it’s time to remove it and replace it with fresh tape, there are only a few things you’ll need to know for safe removal. In general, removing KT Tape is quite easy and safe in most circumstances.
However, removing the tape over skin with hair can be potentially painful. In order to avoid this, peeling up a corner of the tape first and then applying pressure just below where the tape is coming off will result in easy, pain-free removal. Other recommended methods for removal to avoid painful pulling of body hair include doing so while in the shower or by applying baby oil or mineral oil to the tape and skin first.
The Last Word on KT Tape
Just like a knee brace or any other type of joint therapy, KT Tape isn’t a magic bullet. You should always consult a doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist to learn if using KT Tape is appropriate for treating any problems you have with your knee joint, and if you have the option of a physical therapist applying your KT Tape so that you can watch and learn how to do it yourself, you should always do so.
At the same time, KT Tape has been growing in popularity for a reason since the 1970s. If you and your doctor or physical therapist feel it’s an appropriate treatment for your knee joint issues, then welcome to the wide world of using KT Tape to provide better stability and support to your knee! Follow the guidelines we’ve set out for you here, take it slow, and enjoy some well-earned relief from your knee pain.