KT Tape for Knee Pain: Step-by-Step Application Guide for All Types Of Knee Pain

Experiencing knee pain can be a significant hindrance to your daily activities, but finding the right solution can be just as challenging. If you're searching for a non-invasive, effective way to alleviate knee discomfort, you might have heard about KT Tape.

This article dives into how KT Tape can be a game-changer for those suffering from knee pain. As a seasoned fitness expert who has explored various pain relief methods, I'll guide you through the benefits, application techniques, and key considerations of KT Tape.

Whether you're an athlete, someone with chronic knee issues, or just looking for a reliable pain management tool, this comprehensive guide is tailored to meet your needs and help you make an informed decision.

Understanding Knee Pain

Man with Knee Pain

The knee joints are responsible for movements like standing, walking, running, swimming, and keeping balance. They are the body's largest joints – all in all, a complex structure consisting of soft tissues like cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and nerves. 

Knee pain symptoms can occur regardless of one’s age, sex, or profession. It can be a result of an injury or the after-effect of intense physical activity. It makes bending the knees all the more unbearable and strains overall mobility, causing great difficulty in carrying out daily tasks.

Common Causes of Knee Pain

The following conditions could be behind your knee pain:

  • Bursitis – Knee bursitis happens when the bursae the inflammation of the bursae, a small fluid-filled sac near the knee joint, which can lead to significant pain during movements like squatting. One specific type of bursitis, the pes anserine bursitis (goose's foot), affects the inner knee and heavily restricts movement.
  • Chondromalacia patellae –This condition involves the softening and breaking down of the cartilage on the underside of the knee cap, resulting in pain and grinding. Untreated chondromalacia patellae can eventually lead to fibrillation, fissuring, and erosion of the cartilage.
  • Cruciate ligament injuries – Ligament injuries like ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), LCL (lateral collateral ligament), and MCL (medial collateral ligament) are caused by stretching or straining the ligaments beyond their normal capacity.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome –  When the iliotibial band, a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh, becomes inflamed, it causes intense pain on the outer side of the knee and may affect hip position. Runners are often prone to this condition due to poor running form and sometimes due to misaligned hips.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) – A knee joint injury caused by overuse, misalignment, or imbalance in the muscles supporting the knees. The pain manifests in the front of the knee and around the patella (knee cap), especially during bending, kneeling, or squatting. Like IT band syndrome, this condition is also frequent among runners.
  • Meniscus tears –  Tears on one or more meniscus are injuries sustained in this soft tissue caused by sudden and forceful twisting, quickly rotating, or suddenly stopping knee movements. A sharp pain can be felt depending on where the tear is. Swelling increases daily and causes the affected area to feel stiff. 
  • Osteoarthritis - Knee osteoarthritis is a common cause of knee pain since it involves the degradation of the knee cartilage, especially in older adults, and causes pain in the front and inside portion of the knees, making mobility increasingly difficult. 
  • Tendonitis – Tendonitis occurs when the tendons in the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and the outer edge of the foot become inflamed due to either blunt trauma or repetitive motions that can put excessive stress on the tendon connecting the patella and shin. Tendonitis manifests as a dull ache at the top of the shinbone, right under the knee cap, and often occurs during bending. 

    Role of Kinesiology Tape in Pain Management

    KT knee application

    Elastic therapeutic tape or kinesiology therapeutic tape (sometimes called kinesio tape/KT Tape) is a thin, flexible tape used to manage pain, reduce swelling and inflammation, and provide support to joints and muscles. The elasticity or stretchiness of the kinesiology tape allows knee support to be provided without restricting motion, which makes it different from other tape or support adhesives that are not as flexible. 

    Additionally, knee taping can increase blood flow, relieving pressure and stress from the affected area, which will help to relieve inflammation, reduce pain, and aid in avoiding other injuries. The tapes also keep the muscles and joints from moving incorrectly and provide support for people who have conditions that make it difficult to activate muscles or control muscle contraction. 

    Aside from providing knee support, applying KT tape can improve poor posture and poor running form. Similarly, it can also correct and support misaligned hips and increase the extensibility of medial hamstrings, ensuring better movement and posture.

    Kinesiology Taping Applications for Pain Relief

    Roll of KT Tape

    Depending on the knee injury you’re treating, there are different ways to apply KT tape. The strips require different levels of stretching so as to cover as much area as possible. 

    For all parts of the knee, you’ll need 2 full 25 cm strips of KT tape. In some knee-taping techniques, you may need an anchor strip to fully secure the tapes and provide additional knee support and pain relief.

    KT Tape for Back of Knee Pain

    Steps:

    1. Without stretching the knees, apply the entire strip 7 cm below the lateral side of the back of the knee.
    2. Apply the tape around the affected area with a 50% stretch.
    3. Without stretching, apply the remaining 5 cm of the tape 
    4. Repeat the previous step, applying the tape on the medial side of the leg.
    5. Wrap the tape around the point of pain with a 50% stretch on the tape.
    6. Rub all the strips properly for proper adhesion

    KT Tape for Outer Knee Pain

    This taping works best for runners since it provides additional knee support without restricting motion.

    Steps:

    1. Bend your knee at a 90° angle and apply half of the knee tape with a 75% stretch over your point of pain.
    2. Apply the other half of the tape with a 75% stretch and perpendicular to the first one (like a cross or an x).
    3. Put on the anchor without stretching over the other strips.
    4. Apply with a 25% stretch and curve slightly over your point of pain towards your hip.
    5. Rub the strips securely for the tapes to adhere properly to the skin. 

    KT Tape for IT Band Knee Pain

    Steps:

    1. Cut a strip of the knee tape about two-thirds the length of your thigh. The other half will serve as your anchor piece. 
    2. Apply the bottom end of the anchor piece right beneath the outside of the knee or the affected area going up the outside of your thigh.
    3. Keep the knee slightly bent as you apply this piece of tape.
    4. Using two other strips of tape, secure the anchor piece in an x or cross form.
    5. Rub all the strips properly for proper adhesion.

    KT Tape for Top of Knee Pain (Full Knee)

    This taping technique covers the full knee to reduce pain and provide more knee support during movement.

    Steps:

    1. Bend your knee at a 90° angle during this application.
    2. Cut a strip in half and apply it with a 75% stretch below the kneecap.
    3. On one side of the quad, apply the anchor piece about 15-20 cm above the knee cap, stretch at 50%, and curve the tape around the knee cap towards the inside part.
    4. Repeat the procedure for the other quad.
    5. Rub the strips on the full knee securely to allow the tapes to adhere properly

    KT Tape For Anterior Knee Pain

    The anterior knee pain taping technique also works best for people with patellofemoral syndrome and osteoarthritis.

    Steps:

    1. Make Y-shaped splits on each of the strips, one long and one short. The uncut parts will serve as anchors.
    2. Apply the anchor of the long Y-strip in the middle of the thigh, and apply the tails around either side of the patella with 25 to 50% stretch.
    3. Apply the anchor of the small Y-strip on the lateral side of the patella, then apply the tails above and below the patella with a 50% stretch.
    4. Rub the tapes down onto the skin to ensure proper adhesion.

    Scientific Evidence and Studies

    Only a few high-quality studies have examined the use of KT, among other knee-taping techniques, to relieve post-injury pain. 

    A 2019 study found that using kinesio tape effectively relieved osteoarthritis-related pain symptoms and reduced the need for pharmacological management in knee osteoarthritis patients. Other researchers recommended wearing kinesio tape as a conservative treatment due to its effectiveness at relieving pressure and its effects on self-reported clinical outcomes of moderate pain relief and improvements in knee joint function.

    Regarding its use on other joints in the body, one study found that KT beneficially improved strength, range of motion in scapular joint position sense, and movement control when used on other joints in the body. Another more recent study involving patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and shoulder pain recommends KT as a safe and inexpensive intervention that offers temporary improvements in pain and function.

    Additional studies found that KT has an immediate effect on muscle imbalances in infants with congenital muscular torticollis.

    Taping Tips and Best Practices

    Before Applying The Tape

    Before you apply kinesiology tape strips, clean the skin of dirt, moisture, oils, and lotion residue and pat it dry. Any remaining elements can affect the tape’s adhesion. You can also shave off some body hair to ensure it sticks better.

    Best Time To Apply The Tape

    Apply the tapes 1 hour before doing any activity to provide optimal knee support.

    Duration of the Tape

    The tapes can be worn for up to 5 days, depending on the area applied. Do not wear the tape for longer than a week; doing so can cause skin irritation and cause allergies in those with sensitive skin.

    Who Shouldn’t Use Kinesio Tapes

    The tape should not be applied over fresh wounds and to broken or damaged skin. Pregnant women should also avoid them unless permitted by their healthcare providers.

    Patients with heart problems should avoid using kinesiology tapes since the increased lymph flow could generate additional fluid load on the heart. Those with deep vein thrombosis must also avoid these tapes since they can increase the flow of blood to the clot and cause it to become dislodged. 

    FAQs

    1. How long should I keep the kinesiology tape on for knee pain?

    Depending on the area treated, you can keep the kinesiology tape on for up to 5 days. Once the recommended duration has passed, remove the tapes immediately.

    2. Can kinesiology tape be used for knee problems during sports activities?

    Studies show that kinesiology tapes are effective in reducing knee pain and improving physical performance during sports. They support the body, prevent it from moving incorrectly, and ensure smooth sliding.

    3. Are there any side effects of using kinesiology tape on the knee?

    Prolonged wearing of kinesiology tapes can result in skin irritation and allergic reactions for those with sensitive skin. These are often caused by the adhesive used, which adheres the fabric to the skin.

    4. How does the kinesiology Tape for outer knee pain differ from taping for IT band pain?

    While both tapings involve pain in the outer knees, the kinesiology taping for outer knee pain differs from the IT band taping on how the anchor tape is placed – under the strips, while for the IT band, it goes over them. The outer knee taping also requires the leg to be at a 60° angle, while the other requires 90°.

    5. Can kinesio tape be used in conjunction with other treatments?

    Yes, using kinesiology tapes can also be used simultaneously with other treatments for better knee support. One trial found that kinesio taping complemented conventional physical therapy and yielded better recovery results.

    Conclusion

    Using kinesiology tapes for knee pain symptoms is a great way to provide optimal knee support by relieving pain, stress, and pressure. For athletes, these knee-taping techniques also help correct poor posture, hip position, and muscle imbalances without restricting their range of motion.

    If you have questions on kinesiology tapes and knee tapes in general, consult your healthcare provider or a physical therapist on how to perform them properly. They can also prescribe other treatment methods and health practices to complement and expedite knee pain healing.

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