Different Types of Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape is a type of treatment used in recent years in physical therapy and sports medicine clinics. It can be used to help facilitate muscle function, stabilize joints, or inhibit muscles from contracting improperly. It can also be used to help decrease pain, swelling, and muscle spasm.

While anyone can apply kinesiology tape to themselves, it is important to understand the rationale for using the tape. A thorough physical therapy evaluation and assessment can help you and your physical therapist use the correct taping technique to treat your specific musculoskeletal problem or injury.

It is important to use the correct type of kinesiology tape strips for your specific problem. By learning the different types of tape strips used in kinesiology taping and how to cut them, you can be sure that you are using the tape properly.

Remember that not every human body is shaped the same. You may have to improvise a bit to get your tape strips to fit your body perfectly. Working closely with your physical therapist can help you understand the best types of kinesiology tape strips that you should use.

1
The "I" Strip

Kinesio Tape on a runner's calf.
Kinesiology tape is often used to support the Achilles' tendon. Clive Brunskill/Getty images

The "I" strip is the basic building block of kinesiology tape. It is used for muscle facilitation and inhibition, and it can be used to make "X" strips, "Y" strips, the fan, and the lift strip.

Typically "I" strips are used to support muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They are often used to facilitate your rotator cuff, gluteus muscles, quadriceps, or Achilles' tendon. The "I" strip can also be used on your low back and middle back to help you maintain proper posture.

To make an "I" strip, simply cut off the amount of kinesiology tape you will need. Use scissors to round the corners to prevent the tape from being easily pulled off when rubbing against clothing.

2
The "X" Strip

The
A piece of kinesiology tape cut as an "X" strip. Brett Sears, PT, 2014

An "X" strip is used when kinesiology tape is needed to cover a large area and needs to cross multiple joints. The tabs of the "X" strip cross over sensitive areas such as the back of your knees or front of your elbows. This strip is commonly used to facilitate your hamstrings, which cross both your hip joint and the back part of your knee joint.

To make an "X" strip, cut an "I" strip, and then cut lengthwise from one end of the tape towards the center. When you are about half way through the tape, turn the tape around and cut lengthwise from the other end, leaving about 1-2 inches of tape uncut in the center.

3
The "Y" Strip

The
A "Y" strip can be made by cutting an "X" strip in half. Brett Sears, PT, 2014

 The "Y" strip is a piece of kinesiology tape that is used to cross sensitive areas of your body such as behind your knee or in the front of your elbow. It is also commonly used for applications to control the position of your kneecap as in patellofemoral stress syndrome or a subluxing patella. The "Y" strip is typically not as long as the "X" strip.

A "Y" strip can be made easily by cutting an "X" strip in half. If you need a smaller "Y" strip, cut an "I" strip, and then cut the strip lengthwise in half, leaving about 1-2 inches on one end.

4
The Fan

The Fan cut of kinesio tape
The fan type of kinesiology tape is used to help control swelling and edema. Brett Sears, PT, 2014

The Fan is a type of kinesiology tape used to control swelling of your leg or arm. It is commonly used in lymphedema management or for superficial contusions and swelling.

To make a fan, simply cut an "I" strip, and then make three cuts lengthwise through the tape, leaving about 1-2 inches uncut at one end. This creates four small strips of tape that can then be used to fan out over your swollen arm or leg.

5
The Lift Strip

The lift strip of kinesiology tape.
The lift strip is a piece of kinesiology tape also known as the Bandaid. Brett Sears, PT 2014

The lift strip, commonly referred to as the Band-Aid, is often used to support injured tissues or to treat muscle knots or trigger points. The lift strip helps to lift skin and tissues off of sore muscles and trigger points. It is also used to treat superficial bruises.

The lift strip is made by cutting a small "I" strip. The middle portion of the strip is exposed and then stretched 75-100%. This full stretch is then applied to your body over the injured area. Then the smaller end pieces are applied to your body with no stretch, creating a small Band-Aid that lifts the skin and tissues off of your trigger point.

Closing Thoughts

If you have an injury that results in decreased motion or function and increased pain, your physical therapist may teach you to use kinesiology tape to treat your condition. By learning how to cut the basic types of tape strips used, you can be sure to apply the tape properly to your body to get the fullest effect from the kinesiology tape.

It is always a good idea to check in with your physical therapist and doctor before starting any kinesiology taping for your specific injury.

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