Should You Avoid Using Kinesiology Tape?

Contraindications to Using Kinesiology Tape

Kinesio Tape on a runner's calf.
Kinesiology tape should not be used by everyone.. Clive Brunskill/Getty images

Kinesiology tape is a relatively new treatment that is being used in many physical therapy clinics.  The tape provides support to joints but still allows for motion to occur.  It can help facilitate proper muscular contractions, and it is sometimes used to decrease pain and muscle spasm.

Many different musculoskeletal conditions can be treated using kinesiology tape.  Your physical therapist may use it for your Achilles' tendinopathy, patellofemoral stress syndrome, or low back pain.

 Kinesiology tape may also be used to decrease lymphedema and localized swelling.

While kinesiology tape is very versatile and has many different uses, it may not be for everyone.  So who should avoid using kinesiology tape?  Are there certain conditions that may make using kinesiology dangerous?

Absolute Contraindications to Using Kinesiology Tape

Absolute contraindications are when something should never be done during physical therapy (or any other health and medical treatment or procedure).  Performing a treatment of procedure on someone when it is absolutely contraindicated may put the patient at risk for injury.  Remember the adage: first do no harm.

So what are some reasons to avoid kinesiology tape?  Who should never use kinesiology tape?

The following is a list of absolute contraindications to using kinesiology tape:

  • Severe allergic reactions to adhesive tape:  Kinesiology tape adheres to your skin.  If you have a history of a severe allergic reaction to adhesives, you should avoid using the tape.  Typically kinesiology tape is worn during athletic activity, but it can also be worn for many days, and placing your skin in contact with adhesives for a long period of time can lead to serious allergic reactions.
  • Open wounds:  If you have an open wound or surgical incision that is not fully healed, do not use kinesiology tape.  The tape could produce a situation where bacteria is introduced into the wound.
  • Presence of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT):  A DVT is a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the arm or leg.  Using kinesiology tape near the DVT can increase mobility and blood flow.  This may cause the clot to become dislodged and may put you at risk for a pulmonary embolism, which may be fatal.
  • Infection:  If there you are showing signs of infection, kinesiology tape should not be used, as this may cause worsening of your condition.
  • Diabetes:  If you have uncontrolled diabetes, you may suffer from peripheral neuropathy, a condition where you may have altered sensation in your legs or arms.  Kinesiology tape should not be used if you have diabetes, your sensation may be altered, and you may not know if the tape is causing a reaction or a problem with your skin.
  • Active cancer:  If you are currently undergoing treatment for cancer, you should avoid using kinesiology tape since it is thought that the tape increase circulation, and increasing blood flow and nutrition to a cancerous lesion may be dangerous.

If you have any of these problems, you must avoid kinesiology tape. Consult your doctor for more information about your diagnosis and why kinesiology tape is not right for you.

Relative Contraindications to Using Kinesiology Tape

In addition to absolute reasons to avoid using kinesiology tape, there are some relative contraindications.

 Relative contraindications are situations that make a particular treatment possibly dangerous if specific precautions are not taken.  You can still use kinesiology tape with certain relative contraindications, but your physical therapist should explain to you the risks associated with using tape with your specific condition.

Relative contraindications for using kinesiology tape include, but are not limited to:

  • Skin sensitivity:  If you have sensitive skin, you may use kinesiology tape, but it may irritate your skin.  A small test strip of tape can be used for a short time before applying the tape to ensure that your skin can tolerate the adhesives in the tape.
  • Thin skin (typically seen in the elderly):  If your skin is thin due to aging, injury, or as a side effect of medication use, you may wish to avoid using kinesiology tape.  The tape may pull on your skin causing skin breakdown.
  • Lymph node removal:  Some types of kinesiology tape strips are used for lymphedema and swelling management.  If you have had lymph node removal, notify your physical therapist so that lymph in your arm or leg is not directed to the area where the node is absent.  This could cause worsening of your lymphedema, as the excessive fluid would be directed to an area where your body could not manage it.

If you have any of these conditions that may make using kinesiology tape dangerous or risky, you should speak with your physical therapist about alternative treatments and avoid using the tape.  Your physical therapist should be able to suggest other treatments that are safe for you and can help you quickly return to your previous level of function.

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