KT Tape for Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is the inflammation of the shoulder bursa. Bursae are the thin fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between the different structures of our body, like our skin and bones. Normally, a bursa acts as a lubricant between the skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones, allowing them to slide over each other smoothly.

However, when there is too much friction, the bursa can become irritated and inflamed. The bursa then produces more synovial fluid and thickens to create a bigger cushion. An inflamed bursa is usually accompanied by pain, redness, swelling, and limited functional mobility. [1] 

There are three types of shoulder bursitis: chronic, infected, and traumatic. Chronic bursitis is the most common type, which develops as a result of repetitive bursal irritation. If the inflamed bursa is colonized by bacteria, it can then become infected. Infected bursitis can lead to more serious complications.

Lastly, traumatic bursitis can occur from repetitive rubbing against a surface or from excessive bending at the joint. Traumatic is the least common type of bursitis, emerging mostly in highly athletic individuals. [1]

How to tape your shoulder

There are many ways to tape the shoulder that aim to provide more joint stability and relieve some of the pain. Each of the three techniques below has its own advantages and drawbacks, and will target a different shoulder injury or condition. 

Rotator Cuff and Shoulder [3] 

KT Tape for Rotator Cuff and Shoulder
  1. Cut a first strip of tape, measuring from the front side of the top of your shoulder to one third the way down your arm.
  2. In a seated position, reach your arm behind your back to stretch the front muscles of your shoulder. Anchor one end of the strip without tension on the front of the shoulder and stretch it to 25% towards the side of the arm. Anchor the other end without tension. 
  3. Measure and cut a second strip to the length of the back side of your upper shoulder to the side of your arm. Reach the arm across the chest to stretch the back muscles of the shoulder. Anchor the first end on the back side of the upper shoulder and stretch it to 25% tension. The end should overlap with the first strip of tape to form a V-shape.
  4. Gently rub the tape with its backing to heat activate the adhesive. 

Rotator Cuff and Subacromial Bursitis [4]

KT Tape for Rotator Cuff and Subacromial Bursitis
  1. With the arm resting comfortably by your side, anchor one end of a Y strip midway down the side of the arm. With the arm stretched out to the side, place one tail around the anterior deltoid with little to no stretch. Then, bring the arm forward and turn the palm in, before laying the second tail around the posterior deltoid with little stretch. 
  2. Place the arm behind the back and retract the shoulder. Anchor a second Y-strip on the front side of the shoulder. Place the inner tail across the supraspinatus fossa and the outer tail below the line of the scapula, each with 75% stretch. Apply the ends without tension.
  3. Gently rub the tape with the tape’s wrapper to heat activate the adhesive. 

Rotator Cuff, Impingement Syndromes, Tendonitis, and Bursitis [5]

KT Tape for Rotator Cuff, Impingement Syndromes, Tendonitis, and Bursitis
  1. Cut a strip of tape measuring from the anterior shoulder to the mid-scapula and round the ends.
  2. In a seated position, externally rotate the humerus and retract the shoulder. Anchor the tape around the anterior humerus without tension. Stretch the tape to 50% tension across the infraspinatus and apply the other end without stretch. 
  3. Cut a second strip of tape measuring from the top of shoulder to the lower trapezius and round the ends. 
  4. Relax your arm at your side and retract the shoulder. Anchor one end of the tape on the front side of the top of the shoulder, where the trapezius inserts into the clavicle. Pull the tape to 50% stretch over the shoulder towards the lower trapezius insertion. 
  5. Gently rub the tape with the tape’s backing to heat activate the adhesive. 

Benefits of Tape for Bursitis

Taping is a rehabilitative treatment method that is thought to reduce pain, relieve strain on the ligaments, and improve joint stability. Physiotherapists frequently suggest kinesiology tape as an additional protective mechanism for existing injuries and prevention against future injuries. [2]

While the treatment methods suggested by the doctor are normally sufficient to treat an injury, some research has shown that taping could also offer psychological benefits. For example, some athletes will feel more confident due to a stronger sense of joint stability.

The mechanical and neuromuscular advantages of taping continue to be in question, and you should see an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist before using tape to assess if taping would be helpful for your condition. [3] 

FAQs

Can you leave KT Tape on overnight?

Yes, depending on the type and quality of kinesiology tape, it can be worn anywhere from one to seven days [3] and is designed to withstand the wear and tear of athletic activity.

It may be beneficial to wear kinesiology tape overnight to help secure the injured area during the uncomfortable movements that can occur during sleep.  

Can KT Tape get wet?

Yes, KT Tape can get wet. However, it is recommended that you apply the tape 1-2 hours before going into the water to ensure that it has time to completely adhere to the skin. When the tape gets wet, you can gently pat it dry with a towel.

You could also use a hairdryer on the lowest setting, but you should be careful not to use a high heat setting as it could activate the adhesive and make it more difficult to remove. [6]

Does the color of KT Tape matter?

No, the color of the KT Tape does not matter; there are no physical or chemical differences between the colors. The colors were designed to allow individuals to best suit their personal needs and wants. For example, the beige tape is intended to be less visible on the body, whereas the black tape might be used to look more professional. [7]

Can you reuse KT Tape?

No, KT Tape cannot be reused. First, it would be difficult to reuse the tape once it’s removed because it will lose its adhesive properties. Also, once the tape comes into contact with your skin, it adheres to your hair, skin, and sweat. By reusing KT tape, you could be increasing your risk of developing skin irritation.

Can I ice through KT Tape?

Yes, you can ice through KT Tape. KT Tape is designed to be water-resistant and should not come loose when it meets ice or water. [8] In fact, ice should only be applied after the Kinesiology tape, because the tape requires heat to successfully adhere to the skin. 

Can I hurt myself if I apply it incorrectly?

Yes. KT Tape could potentially cause substantial damage when applied for certain conditions, including blood clots, renal insufficiencies, and infections. Individuals should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when considering taping. (5 Conditions When You Should Not Use KT Tape).

How to Remove K-Tape?

Since KT Tape is designed to adhere to the skin, it is often difficult to remove. As a general rule of thumb, tape should be removed by gently tugging in the same direction as the hair grows.

To help loosen the adhesive, thereby reducing skin irritation and painful hair removal, you could also try applying baby oil to the tape or lathering the area in soapy water. [9]

References:

  1. “Shoulder Bursitis.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/shoulder-bursitis.
  2. Petit, Francky. “Taping.” Physiopedia, Sept. 2020, www.physio-pedia.com/Taping.
  3. Sears, Brett. “Improve Rotator Cuff Function With Kinesiology Tape for Your Shoulder.” Verywell Health, 28 Mar. 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/support-your-shoulder-with-kinesiology-tape-2696040.
  4. Gibbons, John. “How to treat Shoulder pain – rotator cuff and bursitis with Kinesiology taping techniques.” YouTube, uploaded by John Gibbons, 23 Jul. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pazXnYq4-SU
  5. Gibbons, John. “KTape / Rocktape application to the Shoulder / Rotator Cuff / Impingement.” YouTube, uploaded by John Gibbons, 20 Dec. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5w3tgPpaOU
  6. KT Tape Admin. “Tips & Tricks: How to Apply and Care for KT Tape in Wet Conditions.” KT Tape, 16 July 2015, www.kttape.com/blogs/kinesiology-blog/tips-tricks-how-to-apply-and-care-for-kt-tape-in-wet-conditions?_pos=1&_sid=af030d443&_ss=r.
  7. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Kinesio, kinesiotaping.com/about/kinesio-tape-frequented-asked-questions/.
  8. Barroso, Mark. “Trainer Q&A: Can Kinesiology Tape Help Heal Workout Injuries?” Men’s Journal, 21 May 2018, www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/trainer-qa-can-kinesiology-tape-help-heal-workout-injuries/.
  9. “How to Remove Kinesiology Tape: K Tape Removal: Take Off KT Tape.” AIRROSTI, 11 June 2014, www.airrosti.com/remove-kinesio-tape/.

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