Kinesiology tape, or KT tape, is a helpful tool that can be used to ease runner's knee pain, but it's not as simple as tearing off a few neon green strips, sticking them on your leg, and hitting the pavement.
Before buying a roll and amping up your weekly mileage, check out this guide to using kinesiology tape for runner's knee, as explained by Jaclyn Smulofsky PT, DPT, a physical therapist at HSS.
What Is Kinesiotaping?
According to Smulofsky, kinesiotaping is a method used by physical therapists to aid with pain control — including with those struggling with knee pain/runner's knee.
"It provides a therapeutic benefit by relieving pressure on irritated tissues," Smulofsky says. "It facilitates underactive muscles and inhibits overactive muscles while providing information to the skin to reduce sensitivity to pain."
When Should You Use Kinesiology Tape?
For runners, kinesiology tape proves rather convenient, as they're able to wear it while running to move with less pain. However, runner's knee is easily exacerbated, so to ensure runners don't worsen the already uncomfortable injury, the tape should only be used under the guidance of a trained physical therapist or doctor.
It also shouldn't be considered a long-term solution (and it's not right for everyone), so if the tape proves ineffective or the pain continues, Smulofsky says a physical therapist should be consulted again.
In fact, no matter your injury, Smulofsky says that you should always check with a physician or a PT before using kinesiology tape for the first time.
"KT tape should be used by people who have experienced muscular or overuse injuries, those who've had surgery (when directed), and potentially those with neurological impairments," Smulofsky says.
"However, there are some precautions when using KT tape independently, including allergies to adhesives (materials in the tape), open wounds, skin infections, active cancers, diabetes mellitus, and other cardiac conditions."
After a medical professional gives the go-ahead, Smulofsky says the at-home user can also use kinesiology tape for shoulder pain, tennis elbow, to adjust posture, decrease low back pain, address carpal tunnel syndrome, and more.
Do You Apply Kinesiology Tape Before or After Running?
The tape can be applied before a run to help relieve the symptoms of runner's knee.
"After a run, leave the KT tape on until it falls off (usually takes about 24-48 hours), or it can be removed by slowly peeling the tape off. Removing the tape too fast can irritate the skin!"
How Do You Apply Kinesiology Tape?
There are many different ways to use kinesiology tape for runner's knee — another reason why it's essential to consult with a medical professional before using it.
However, simply as an example, Smulofsky outlined one technique for runner's knee, below.
"You must first identify the area around the knee, or more specially, the knee cap, that is most painful," Smulofksy explains. Then, follow the following steps.
- Measure a piece of tape that spans above and below the affected area, leaving an additional 2-3 inches on either side.
- Cut the tape and round the four edges of the tape to ensure the tape will stick onto the skin.
- Keep your knee straight or in a slight bend when beginning the application.
- Tear the centre of the paper on the reverse of the tape.
- Apply the middle of the tape (where the paper is torn) to the skin with a slight pull on both ends of the tape.
- Maintain the pressure on the tape and bend your knee, having the tape firmly pressed on the skin.
- End by removing the remaining paper on each end of the tape without adding more tension and by applying the rest of the tape to the skin.
- Once the tape is fastened to the skin, rub the tape lightly to activate the adhesive with the knee bent.
- Straighten the knee.
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