How to Use KT Tape to Address Inflammation

Every athlete or even casual gym-goer has seen someone sporting some brightly colored strips over their shoulders or maybe wrapped snugly around a knee. This support is a best-kept secret for improving comfort and effectiveness in activities. Enter Kinesiology Tape, often referred to as Kinesio Tape or KT Tape, has a host of benefits rooted in the science of kinesiology. 

Developed in the 1970s, the Kinesio taping technique comes from chiropractor Dr. Kenso Kase and has been used widely ever since. Athletes and weekend warriors alike have been looking for additional stability and joint support and have found great effects from the KT tape method. It is in kinesiology, the study of the human body’s movement, that positive direction for how physiology can help us work to recover mobility and address healing has been found. KT Tape can be applied by the user, under the guidance of a physio, and or a sports therapist. Some of its benefits include:

  • Stretchable material that is not overly restrictive of the area of application
  • Water and sweat-proof so it stays in place during activities
  •  Supports muscles while allowing natural circulation
  • Anyone suffering from joint pain can use it


Included in the benefits of KT tape is its ability to improve issues of inflammation. It does this by allowing a natural flow of lymphatic fluids with a fresh blood supply. That natural flow also invites nutrients that restore tired and tense muscles and oxygen which the body cannot do without. The inflammation-causing buildup can be better flushed out of the body, allow recovery to begin, and also provide relief to the movement of joints.

KT Tape is often used to support athletic performance or simply to support parts of the body needing improved steadiness and pain management. Applying the fine, breathable material to the skin can be simple and may often lead to less dependence than other assistance devices. There are many brands so finding the best for you is more accessible than ever before. Since the material is cotton and nylon, it can bend and move with you and mimic the elasticity of the skin. 

For the most effective experience here are some keys to successful preparation and application: 

Preparation of the Area

To achieve the ideal adhesion, it can be necessary to trim excess hair that could prevent proper contact with the surface of skin. Additionally, any tanning oils, lotions, liniments, or sunscreens can weaken the adhesive. Those substances will need to be removed using the aid of easy-to-find isopropyl alcohol from your local pharmacy, on the surface of the skin to present a clean area for application.

Identifying the Appropriate Grade of Stretch to Use

There are four grades of stretch for the KT tape application. These are no stretch, light stretch, moderate stretch, and heavy stretch. Since one of the prime benefits of KT tape is how it moves so naturally with the body, any recoil in the tape should still permit natural movement. Injury can draw blood or fluid into an area, so reducing congestion and allowing free flow is the goal to address inflammation. When identifying the area needing support, if you need to stretch the tape more than 50-75% then a higher stretch grade is recommended. Most applications will find good effects from light or moderate stretch. Overstretching can produce friction and skin irritation, this discomfort can lead to further limitations to mobility.

Styles of Taping


It is important to have a good pair of scissors on hand. Kinesio tape can be cut into different types of strips that can support different muscle groups of the body and their different levels of mobility. The style of taping an enormous interest for our purposes here is the lymphatic fan. While the I Strip can take a single length of tape for a large muscle, and the Y Strip can reach across different muscles, it is the lymphatic fan that can reduce swelling and address inflammation. This will be the taping that addresses those built-up fluids and brings fresh blood to the area needing support. Creating the ideal flow can help boost recovery and mitigate build-up in a distressed area. This takes a strip and allows it to be cut into three or four tails. Much like the Y strip, but with each tail cut in half, leaving a small end tab untrimmed.


Determining the Type of Technique to use For Application


Not all applications will call for a single length of tape. When applying tape directly to the skin (and never over another piece of tape) sometimes varying techniques will give the greatest benefit. This proper technique choice can prevent the overstretching that so often can lead to diminished effectiveness. Overstretching not only reduces the effectiveness of the tape but can add to discomfort of the skin and limit reapplication in the future.


The neutral or muscle technique calls for a stretch of the muscle, and not the tape upon application. A good rule is that either the muscle or the tape is to be stretched but not both. Muscle strains or for muscle activation, this technique is often deployed very effectively.
The stretch technique allows for the application of the tape on the stretched surface of skin, permitting the most lift on the skin and addressing postural correction and pain points. Swelling and inflammation or pain from trauma can be addressed with this technique.

Timing of Application

While the adhesive of KT tape is very effective and can easily hold up to sweat and water, it needs time to set. It is recommended to apply at least 30 minutes before activity but one hour is the ideal setting period for maximum and long-lasting adhesion. You can choose varying colors to identify what strip was applied and in which order. Red first, blue second, and perhaps green third to help keep track of the order of application.


Method of Application

KT tape should be applied directly to the prepped and cleaned skin for best effects on inflammation. Avoiding the layering of tape on top of other tape is best, to reduce the contact with the adhesive side of the tape. The tape has rounded corners which will help minimize catching on articles of clothing so you can move freely without worrying that your garments will be stuck in place.

Firstly, remove the paper backing on the tape using a twist and tear method at one end of the strip, or in the center depending on the application. It may be useful to create tabs by folding the paper backing to allow you to apply and avoid the adhesive.


With any choice of stretch whether it be no stretch, light, moderate, or heavy. Leaving two inches with no stretch on either end of the tape is best. You would certainly like to be able to remove the tape after it has served its purpose. Where necessary, take a full strip of tape and after folding width wide, cut a round edge near the top of the strip to produce a lengthwise half strip.


Removal of Tape

By carefully lifting an edge of the tape and folding it back on itself, you can remove the tape. Holding the skin gently is best to avoid irritation from removal. In case you or the person being taped has sensitive skin, a lotion or non-irritating oil can be applied before removal.

In the event of trauma or injury, inflammation can cause such an excess buildup of fluid that the lymphatic system needs support to get rid of it. Improving oxygen and nutrient delivery to healing muscles and tissues is one of the ways that recovery can be improved by the proper application of KT Tape. This is achieved by a gentle lifting of the skin from the target tissues. A reduction in pressure can lead to enhanced pain management and overall mobility. Inflammation can cause increased pain and reduced athletic performance. Even in a weekend rec league pickup game of basketball, painful and swollen joints can sideline your fun. The resulting time away tends to cut into activity goals and can also lead to mood changes without the boost that exercise can provide. 


The support of muscles and joints does not end at physically injured points. Individuals living with the effects of neurological disorders can also find benefits from KT tape. With the help of properly trained users, Kinesio tape can bring relief to athletes of all different skill levels. You can find it in the gyms of NBA and NFL leagues and on the sidelines of professional sports games all over. Not to mention, it comes in a variety of colors so styling it up and making it your own is easy to do. Speed up your recovery and find more support with KT tape. Talk to your physical or sports therapist to find out the best next steps to add Kinesio tape to your sports bag.