Kinesiology taping in lymphoedema

11th Sep 2020

What is Kinesiology tape?

Kinesiology or Kinesio tape is a medical grade tape that is made from 100% cotton. It has an acrylic adhesive which enables it to stick to the skin and is latex free. Originally used in therapeutic and sports medicine, Kinesio tape has been used for many years by lymphoedema therapists to help treat swelling of any art of the body.

How Does KT help Lymphoedema?

There is not very much robust research to support the use of Kinesio taping in treating lymphoedema and although many studies say it cannot replace treatment with compression or lymphoedema bandaging, many therapists have reported the benefits of using KT and the positive effects it has had on those with lymphoedema. It is thought that when applied correctly for lymphoedema, that the tape achieves negative pressure over a swollen area, this enables the fluid within the tissue spaces to drain to an area where the lymphatic system is functioning, or an area free from swelling.Kinesio tape can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with your compression garments.

Can everyone with Lymphoedema use KT?

Kinesio tape must only be used if guided by your therapist as there are certain instances where tape may not be a suitable treatment for you, this includes instances such as cellulitis or where the skin is very fragile. Furthermore, prior to using any Kinesiology tape your therapist will perform a patch test to check that you do not react to the adhesive. They will usually ask you to wear a small piece of tape for 24 hours and they will document in your records which tape is suitable for you. Even if you do react to a certain brand of tape, your therapist may try a different more gentle brand instead.

Your therapist will likely understand where your lymphoedema is draining too, especially if you have had specialist imaging techniques, such as Near Infrared Fluorescence Lymphatic Imaging (mapping of the lymphatics with lymphofluoroscopy). This allows your lymphoedema therapist to decide which application to use and what area of the body the tape will be applied on.

Can my therapist teach me to use KT?

Yes, once you have been patch tested and once your therapist has applied to the tape correctly, they can show you how to self-apply the tape in future. They may give you written information and drawings or cut you a few templates to help you remember how the tape should be applied, you can even ask them to take a picture on your phone to help you to remember.

How long should I keep the Tape on for?

Unless your therapist has advised otherwise, Kinesio tape can be worn for 5-7 days. After this time you may see the ends start to roll. Usually we advise that you should remove your tape at the end of day 5, allow day 6 for the skin to rest and then reapply on day 7, unless you are applying on a different area of the skin, in which case this can be done on day 6.

General Advice on self-application.

Ensure your skin is clean, dry and free from excess hair. LymphShop have a range of skin care products such as Klebi clean skin which is a pre taping spray that can be used to clean the skin before applying your tape.

Always cut and prepare your tape prior to applying. It is useful to fold back some of the backing so that you don’t get caught out try to lift the backing as you apply it, (it’s almost like trying the liftthe end of the cello tape when wrapping present).

Always try and position the area of the body you are going to tape, in a position that achieves a skin stretch. Kinesio tape relies on a skin stretch so that when you relax into a normal position the tape recoils and lifts the skin. We do not advise (unless advised to by your therapist) that you stretch the tape on application as this can cause a slight reaction.

Once tape is applied wait for one hour before showering or exercise.

Tape can be left in place whilst showering and patted dry with a towel. Do not use a hairdryer to dry the tape as this could result in skin trauma and will further activate the adhesive.

To remove the tape from the skin this must be done with caution and in the direction of the hair growth. The tape can be removed by rolling the legs/tails in the direction of the hair growth or by lifting the edge of the leg/tails and pulling downwards away from the limb to deactivate the glue. If the tape is still well adhered to the skin then removal may be easier whilst bathing or with the application of a paraffin based emollient.

For more information on Kinesio taping please speak to your therapist. Medical grade Kinesiology tape can be purchased direct from Lymph Shop.

About the author

Natalie qualified as a registered nurse in 2005 after 13 years working as a health care Assistant. She developed a specialist interest in the management of lymphoedema as a community nurse where she trained in the Casley Smith method of MLD. She went on to work at Compton Lymphoedema Care in 2009 where she developed her skills and passion for treating patients with lymphoedema and for delivering training to individuals with a specialist interest in Lymphoedema management, furthering her own development becoming trained in the Leduc method of MLD. Natalie became a member of the team at Haddenham Healthcare in 2012 where she took on the role as Clinical Advisor, becoming Clinical Manager in 2016 and completing her Masters of Science in Lymphoedema Care at Wolverhampton University during the same year. Natalie now oversees all aspects of clinical training, publications and research and as well as offering clinical support to clinicians globally and often delivering training at Wolverhampton University and The Lymphoedema Training Academy. Natalie was a trustee for the British Lymphology Society from 2015-2018 and is currently a senior member of the training team at the Lymphoedema Training Academy and a member of the LymphVision team, offering specialist lympho-fluoroscopy imaging for patients with Lymphoedema. She is FG-MLD ® trained and also continues her clinical practice at Compton Care