How to Apply Tape for Knee Pain: 4 Techniques

Knee pain is a common complaint in both active and older individuals. While most injuries associated with knee pain are minor and can heal with simple conservative treatment, some cases of knee pain are a result of a more serious injury.

These severe injuries can be to any of the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or tissues surrounding the knee joint. The specific site and severity of knee pain will depend on the injury and may need more invasive treatment, physical therapy, immobilization braces, or even surgery.

Common injuries include torn ligaments (i.e. ACL, PCL, MCL, and LCL tears), damaged cartilage, fractured bones, bursitis, tendinitis, and any type of arthritis.

Individuals with moderate or severe knee pain should seek medical assistance and receive a proper diagnosis. [1]

taping for knee pain

There are many techniques for taping the knee joint – each one designed for a different injury or condition. This article describes four common taping techniques, including when they should be used and how to do them. [4]

If you are taping for the first time, it is recommended that you visit a physical therapist to learn how to properly tape for your specific injury and body. 

Proper Taping Practices

There are several measures that should be taken to ensure that taping is efficient and effective. Before any taping, individuals should consider their skin’s level of sensitivity and find an adhesive that does not irritate their skin.

Tape should never be applied directly on an existing rash, scab, or open wound. Instead, the skin should be cleaned and dried, with any oils, dirt, or sweat residue removed.

Some patients may also prefer to remove the hair around the injured area to minimize skin irritation during tape removal. Alternatively, others prefer to apply a layer of prewrap or thin foam to protect the skin and hair from the adhesive tape. [2]

Several other considerations that may help with proper tape application include:

  • Tape should be cut to a length and width that is appropriate for the affected area 
  • Tape should be applied smoothly, without twists or wrinkles
  • Tape should be torn or cut, such that the ends don’t have loose strands
  • Tape should be applied tightly enough to keep the injured joint stable, but not so tight that the joint’s range of motion is completely restricted 

Can I reuse tape if it was barely used?

Once removed, tape should not be reapplied. The tape will lose its adhesive properties and will therefore be less effective at keeping the joint securely in place.

Also, even if the tape doesn’t appear dirty, it will likely have sweat, skin, and hair follicles attached to it, which could increase the risk of skin infection and irritation. 

McConnell Patellar Taping

The McConnell taping technique is a widely practiced method of taping that involves pushing the patella in medially and securing it so that it remains properly aligned. If done correctly, patellar taping should reduce anterior knee pain and correct patellofemoral kinematics during everyday activity.

McConnell  knee taping technique

The exact placement and tightness of the taping procedure will depend on the patient’s specific needs for patellar tilt, glide, and rotation. [4] 

  1. Cut a piece of Hypafix tape to a length where it can wrap around the front side of the knee, but without either end of the tape reaching the hamstring. 
  2. With the knee slightly bent, anchor one end of the Hypafix tape on the outer side of the knee. Then, slide the patella medially towards the inner side of the knee and secure the other end of the tape on the inside of the knee. Depending on the thickness of the tape, you may need two strips of tape to fully cover the knee cap. One covering the lower half of the kneecap and the other covering the upper half. 
  3. Using a shorter piece of athletic tape, ensure that the skin and patella are slid medially to the full extent, and apply it from the outside in. For a tighter fit, you can also pull the skin from the inner knee towards the outer leg before securing the tape. This may create small wrinkles in the Hypafix tape or in the skin. Two pieces of this tape may be also necessary to ensure the kneecap is completely covered. [5]

Tendinopathy Taping

The Crystal Palace Wrap is a taping technique commonly used to treat knee pain from Patella Tendinitis or Tendinosis. There are a lot of different variations, but effectively it consists of relieving the pressure of the patella on the femur and reducing strain on the tibial tubercle. 

Patella Taping for Knee Pain
  1. Cut a piece of Hypafix tape to a length where it can wrap around the knee once. Standing with the knee relaxed and slightly bent, position this tape over the tendon– the soft area between the lower edge of the kneecap and the top of bone under your knee. The tape should feel secure, but not too tight that it is uncomfortable. 
  2. With a roll of elastic adhesive bandage in hand, rip a 6-inch piece into two even strips. Then twist each strip, so that they become two cord-like tails. With the quad muscle relaxed, position the two tails over the tendon (the soft spot) and wrap them around the leg with tension. 
  3. Using the same piece of elastic adhesive bandage, wrap the untorn tape around the knee so that it completely covers the two little cords of tape. [6]


Kinesiology Taping for Kneecap Support

Another taping technique used for patellar tendinopathy is achieved with Kinesiology tape (KT). This method of patellar strapping aims to reduce the strain on the patellar tendon, provide overall knee stability, and help with patellar tracking. [4] 

Kinesiology Taping for Kneecap Support
  1. Sit with the knee positioned at a 90º angle or less. Using a strip of KT tape, anchor one end under the inner kneecap, wrap it under the kneecap, and up along the outer side. Secure the end to the outer thigh. To achieve a 10% stretch, use the top hand to pull tape in the proper direction and the bottom hand to push the tape up smoothly as it’s applied.
  2. Following a similar application technique, anchor one end of another strip of KT tape under the outer side of the kneecap, wrap it along the bottom edge, and up the inner edge of the kneecap. Secure the end of the tape to the inner thigh. 
  3. Stretch a third piece shorter to its full extent and place it under the kneecap on the patellar tendon, starting with the middle first. Once the middle portion is secured, the end of the tape can be smoothed over gently and without tension. 
  4. Rub the KT tape thoroughly to ensure it is all properly adhered. [7]

Knee Ligament Taping 

The fourth taping technique is designed to protect the ligaments in your knee from hyperextension and hyperflexion after they are overstretched or torn.

A knee ligament injury can occur in any one of the four ligaments in the knee– the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial collateral ligament, the lateral collateral ligament, or the posterior cruciate ligament.

The method described below is specifically for taping the medial collateral ligament, but could also be modified to target the lateral ligament instead. [8] 

Knee Ligament Taping
  1. With the leg slightly bent, wrap a long piece of Hypafix tape around the leg, about an inch above the top of the knee cap. Wrap another piece of this tape around the leg, about an inch below the bottom of the knee cap. These two pieces of tape will primarily serve as a place for the other pieces of tape to anchor to. 
  2. Wrap one layer of rigid strapping tape over each of these two anchor pieces. 
  3. Apply strips of rigid tape in an X figure over the medial joint, securing the ends to the anchor tape. Apply these short strips of tape until the whole medial joint is covered. The tape should not cross over the midline, as this would otherwise prevent the knee from achieving normal flexion. Also, to add tension to the tape, stretch the tape to its full extent. 
  4. With a roll of Hypafix tape in hand, continuously wrap a piece of tape around the upper leg, around the leg in an infinity pattern several times, and then around the lower leg. Ideally, the tape will be applied with some tension on the medial side.
  5. Finish off the application with two more pieces of rigid tape. Each one will be placed where the initial two pieces of tape were applied. These should cover and flatten the end of all other pieces of tape. [8]

What are the Benefits of Taping?

Taping is a rehabilitative treatment method frequently used by physiotherapists to help reduce knee pain and improve overall stability.

While the treatment methods suggested by the doctor should be sufficient to heal an injury, taping may also be used as an additional protective mechanism.

Some evidence suggests that taping can help to stabilize the muscles and ligaments of the knee, relieve knee pain, prevent hyperflexion of the joint, restore normal movement, and compress the soft tissues.

Taping is most frequently used by athletes or highly active individuals, as a means of protecting existing injuries and preventing future injuries.

In addition to these mechanical and neuromuscular benefits, taping can also have psychological effects, such as enhancing an athlete’s confidence or providing a greater sense of joint stability. [2] 

What Types of Tape are Most Used?

There is a wide variety of tapes that can be used for knee injuries, each with their unique advantages and drawbacks.

One of the most widely used types is a durable cotton tape, referred to as “zinc oxide tape” or “white athletic tape”. It’s popular among physiotherapists because it’s rigid enough to immobilize the muscles and joints, but also adequately flexible to wrap around the knee without wrinkles. Also, it’s water-resistant, easy to handle, very adhesive, and can withstand high tensile load. [3]

Another type of tape is an elastic adhesive bandage, which is lighter weight than athletic tape and can stretch more easily. This tape is particularly useful around joints as it still provides some support, while allowing for a relatively normal range of motion.

A third type of tape is Kinesiology Therapeutic (KT). This tape is made from cotton, spandex, and adhesive, which is what allows it to be stretchy and comfortable on the skin. KT tape works by gently pulling at the skin to increase blood flow and reduce swelling. This tape is great for athletes because it can be stretched to offer different levels of support. However, this wide range means that it often requires a more skillful application than other techniques. [4]

Additionally, there are other tapes, like Hypafix dressing retention tape, that can be used to dress wounds or as a comfortable base under other more rigid tapes. 

References:

  1. “Knee Pain.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 May 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350849.
  2. Petit, Francky. “Taping.” Physiopedia, Sept. 2020, www.physio-pedia.com/Taping.
  3. Miclau, Elizabeth. “Plantar Fasciitis Taping.” Injury Health Blog, 26 Apr. 2021, injuryhealthblog.com/plantar-fasciitis-taping/.
  4. Lowe, Rachael. “Knee Taping.” Physiopedia, www.physio-pedia.com/Knee_Taping.
  5. Wells, Ada. “McConnell Taping for the Knee.” YouTube, uploaded by Be Well-Stay Well with Dr. Ada Wells, PT, 13 Apr. 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBRdsK3zRyk
  6. Reynolds, Neal. “Taping and strapping the Patella Tendonitis | Crystal Palace Wrap.” YouTube, uploaded by Sports Injury Clinic, 11 Apr. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZnmrRgRN14&t=110s
  7. Torerk, Jon. “How to Kinesio Tape for Patellar Tendonitis – In Under a Minute.” YouTube, uploaded by BioMechanixLA, 28 Feb. 2013, 
  8. “Knee MCL Taping.” YouTube, uploaded by North Queensland Physiotherapy Centre, 26 Sep. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVd2o_ysgHo

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