Kinesiology tape (a.k.a. KT tape) has rapidly gained traction in sports medicine and physical therapy.

Despite its popularity, many remain dubious about its benefits.

What is kinesiology tape?

How does kinesiology tape work?

And is “kinesio tape” worth the hype?

Get evidence-based answers to these questions and more in this article. 

What Is Kinesiology Tape?

Kinesiology tape, often called “kinesio tape” or “KT tape.” is a strong, stretchy adhesive tape used in sports medicine and physical therapy.

It’s usually latex-free, water-resistant, and made from cotton and nylon. Unlike traditional athletic tapes that tend to be thick and restrictive, KT tape is flexible, allowing taped limbs or joints to move through a full range of motion

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How Does Kinesiology Tape Work?

We still don’t know how (or if) kinesiology tape works as promised, though the most common theory is that when you stretch the tape and apply it to your body, it exerts a suction-like force that lifts the skin and creates space between your skin and the tissues underneath.

Proponents of this theory say this offers three benefits:

  1. It creates space in joints: Applying tape to joints may increase the space in the joint, preventing bones, muscle tendons, and other soft tissues from rubbing together and causing pain. 
  2. It increases circulation and lymphatic drainage: Applying kinesiology tape may reduce swelling and fluid buildup in the taped area by improving blood flow and allowing lymph (a clear-to-white fluid that plays a role in immune function) to move more freely.
  3. It alters pain signals: Swelling compresses receptors in your skin, sending signals to your brain which you interpret as pain. Kinesiology tape lifts the skin away from the tissues underneath, which may relieve compression and pain.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway, but does the research support this?

What Does Kinesiology Tape Do?

According to its manufacturers and some physical therapists, KT tape supports muscles and joints, enhances proprioception, relieves pain, reduces swelling, increases strength and flexibility, and boosts athletic performance.

Here’s what research says about these claims.

Muscle and Joint Stability

Given its sturdy and stretchy nature, KT tape may help support fatigued muscles and unstable joints.

For instance, in one study, researchers found that the elasticity of kinesiology tape acted like a rubber band when applied to runners’ thighs, helping them maintain their stride length when fatigued.

Other studies show that kinesio tape can help support injured joints, allowing users to move more freely and recover faster.

However, since not all evidence agrees, it’s still premature to draw definitive conclusions about kinesio tape’s effectiveness in aiding muscle and joint support.

It’s also unclear if kinesio tape offers any benefit over regular athletic tape for supporting muscles and joints.


Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense its position and movements without relying on sight.

Athletes value this awareness because understanding where your body is in space may help you avoid injuries.

Some scientists believe the pressure and stretching effect of kinesiology tape activates receptors on your skin. These receptors then relay movement and position data to the brain, potentially heightening proprioception and reducing injury risk.

Research investigating kinesiology tape’s effect on proprioception yields mixed results—some evidence suggests it improves proprioception, while other research shows it offers no benefit. 

Given these conflicting findings, it’s sensible to wait for more high-quality research before making definitive claims about kinesio tape’s role in enhancing proprioceptive awareness.

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Research examining whether kinesio tape can help alleviate pain is conflicting. Some studies show it has a positive effect, whereas others show it offers no advantages.

A possible explanation is that kinesio tape can relieve pain in some muscles or joints but not others.

For example, research shows it can help alleviate pain caused by neck, trap, and knee injuries or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Yet, its effectiveness is less consistent for lower-back problems.

Thus, kinesiology tape may relieve pain in certain muscle groups or joints for some people, but it’s not always clear how much of this is due to genuine physiological changes or the placebo effect.


Although some studies indicate that kinesiology tape doesn’t significantly reduce swelling, the majority of research shows it’s beneficial in this regard.

However, given the limited evidence available, it’s prudent to wait for further comprehensive studies before making definitive claims about the tape’s efficacy in treating swelling.


Some scientists believe KT tape increases strength by pulling on fascia (the thin casing of connective tissue surrounding a muscle), increasing your body’s ability to contract the muscle underneath and boosting muscle activity.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear evidence this is the case.

Some studies show kinesio tape increases strength in people with muscle fatigue and chronic musculoskeletal diseases; others show it’s ineffective.

Importantly, research shows that kinesio tape doesn’t boost strength in healthy people. That is, applying it to your muscles and joints won’t help you squat, deadlift, or bench press more weight.

(For that, you need a well-designed strength training program, such as Bigger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger.)


Studies on people with sports injuries or conditions such as osteoarthritis, cerebral palsy, whiplash, or shoulder pain typically show that taping promotes flexibility, allowing you to move the affected joints and muscles through longer ranges of motion.

How KT tape achieves this is unclear, though some experts have proposed two theories:

  1. It improves blood flow to muscles.
  2. It increases proprioception, which reduces the fear of moving an injured joint or muscle. 

While these hypotheses are plausible, researchers are yet to validate either, and almost all of the research showing benefits has been in people with severe health issues (not healthy athletes with minor aches and pains).

Athletic Performance

Some athletes use kinesio tape while competing, believing it improves body awareness and offers additional support for their joints and muscles.

While plenty of anecdotal evidence supports these claims, a review by scientists at the University of Mississippi Medical Center found no compelling evidence that kinesiology tape enhances sports performance.

Injury Prevention

Some athletes believe kinesiology tape helps prevent injuries from occurring. 

Most claim the tape does this by supporting their muscles, tendons, and joints. However, a meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) found kinesiology tape is ineffective at preventing injuries. 

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Many physical therapists and kinesio tape manufacturers laud kinesiology tape for its alleged recovery benefits.

However, current research paints a mixed picture. 

Some research supports the idea that kinesio tape can stabilize muscles and joints, enhance proprioception, relieve pain and swelling, boost strength in people with particular musculoskeletal conditions, and improve flexibility. However, the consistency of these findings varies.

Thus, if you’re interested in using KT tape to accelerate your recovery, tempering your expectations is sensible—its effectiveness varies, and to what degree it helps is unclear.

It might be worth trialing, given its affordability and easy application (you can apply kinesiology tape at home, despite what some “experts” say).

Still, it’s essential to remember it complements, rather than replaces, proven recovery strategies, such as adequate rest, ample sleep, and good nutrition.

How to Use Kinesiology Tape

Numerous online tutorials can guide you on applying kinesiology tape, with KT Tape’s YouTube channel being a notable example.

Before you start, it’s wise to watch or read several tutorials. While there might be minor variations between each, they should provide a clear enough idea of the process.

Once you’re ready, follow these tips for effective application and removal:

  1. Ensure the target area is clean, dry, and free from lotions or oils.
  2. Trim dense hair for optimal tape adhesion.
  3. Tear the tape’s backing paper in the center of the strip.
  4. Round the ends to prevent snagging on clothes.
  5. To “anchor” the tape, stick the first and last 1-to-2 inches of tape to your skin without applying any stretch.
  6. Always hold the tape using the backing paper.
  7. Once applied, firmly rub the tape to activate the adhesive.
  8. To make removal more comfortable, try peeling it off in the shower. Or, if it’s in a particularly hairy area, apply baby oil to the back of the tape before removing it.

+ Scientific References