Kinesiology Taping: To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

posted by Tape Expert

kinesiology_tape_rollsOne of the features that makes kinesiology tape different from other types of therapeutic tape is its elasticity. Kinesiology tape is designed to stretch up to 40% beyond its “resting” length (i.e., its length with the paper backing still applied). The amount of stretch in the tape can be manipulated according to the condition and needs of the individual being taped. In addition to varying the amount of stretch in the tape, the practitioner can also choose to apply the tape with the muscle in either a stretched or relaxed position.

While these options greatly increase the spectrum of benefits that can be accomplished with kinesiology taping, they can also greatly increase the confusion level for those new to kinesiology taping. The most commonly asked questions are:

  • When should I stretch the tape and when should I not stretch it?
  • If I stretch the tape, how much should I stretch it?
  • Do I stretch the entire application or only certain parts?
  • When should I stretch the muscle and when should I not stretch the muscle?
  • Should I stretch both the tape and the muscle, just the tape or just the muscle?

Although the best way to learn the answers to these questions is to take a course in kinesiology taping, there are some basic rules of thumb that can provide some clarity to the issue of stretching.

easy-to-applyIf unsure of how much to stretch the tape, it is better to understretch than overstretch. Kinesiology tape is stretched approximately 15% before it is applied to the paper backing. Therefore, benefits will be felt, even if the tape is applied as the backing is removed, with no additional stretch. Overstretching, on the other hand, can lead to skin irritation that may require removing the tape prematurely.

When a kinesiology taping application indicates stretching the tape, the anchor ends of the tape should always be applied with no stretch. Only the body of the application should utilize tape in the stretched position. This will help prevent skin irritation or over-stimulation of the injured area.

Structural or Mechanical Applications – Stretch the Tape, not the Muscle
elbow_application_step_3There are two main purposes for a structural or mechanical kinesiology taping: (1) to provide support for an injured muscle or joint, (2) to provide sensory feedback to discourage overstretching or over-contraction of an injured area. This is accomplished by stretching the tape and applying it while the muscles are held in a neutral or slightly contracted position. The amount of stretch can vary depending on the degree of support desired, but the stretch should never exceed 80% of the available stretch in the tape. The goal is to provide an “end feel” that will prevent moving beyond a safe range of motion.

Neurosensory (Pain Relief) Applications – Stretch the Muscle, not the Tape
elbow_application_step_4The purpose of a neurosensory or space correction kinesiology taping is to create more space directly above the area of pain and inflammation, reducing pressure and irration on the pain receptors. For this purpose, the muscle should be stretched to its maximum pain-free range and the tape should be applied directly from the backing with no additional stretch. After the tape is applied and the muscle is returned to its resting position, convolutions should be seen in the tape over the injured area. In addition to reducing pressure on the pain receptors, this type of taping creates an ongoing low level stimulation that helps to override the pain signals going to the brain.

Lymphatic or Microcirculatory Applications – Stretch the Muscle AND the Tape
lymph_application_step_4Microcirculatory applications are used to create areas of reduced pressure above the lymphatic channels in an injured area. This reduced pressure allows the lymphatic fluid responsible for localized swelling and edema to drain away through a nearby lymph duct. When properly applied, a rapid reduction of swelling occurs that is maintained as long as the tape remains on the body. For these purposes, the muscle is held in a stretched position while the tape is applied with a light stretch.

kinesiology tape
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