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KT Tape Wrist: Is There A Better Solution?

| | Hands & Wrist
KT Tape Wrist

Your wrist pain is now constant.  Rest and physical therapy have not helped.  What is a wrist sprain?  What is KT Tape?  What is KT Tape wrist application?  What are the benefits?  How do I tape my wrist?  Why do people tape their wrist?  Does KT tape actually work? Are there better options?  Let’s dig in.

Wrist Basics

The wrist is composed of 8 bones held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  Ligaments are thick pieces of connective tissue that connect one bone to another.  Ligaments provide important stability to the wrist.  As such they are susceptible to injury.  A sprain is stretching or tearing of ligaments.  There are three different types of sprains that are based on severity (1)

Grade 1: Ligaments in the wrist are stretched but not torn

Grade 2: Partial tear of wrist ligaments

Grade 3:  Complete tear of wrist ligaments

What Is KT Tape?

KT Tape is an elastic therapeutic strip tape with an acrylic adhesive that was developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor in 1970 (2).  It comes in multiple bright colors and is commonly seen on arms, legs, and wrists of athletes during events and training.  The elastic cotton tape can stretch up to 140% of its original length (3).  This allows KT tape to have a much greater range of motion when compared to other athletic tapes.  KT Tape is used for many injuries including Grade I and II sprains.  The proposed benefits of KT Tape include (4):

  • Support damaged or weakened joint
  • Decrease pain
  • Reduce edema
  • Increase blood flow

How Do I Tape My Wrist?

How KT tape is applied varies upon the injury and its severity. There are pre-cut KT Tape kits specific for wrist injuries or one can opt to customize their application by cutting their own KT tape as follows. With palm down bend the wrist.  Apply partially stretched KT tape around the wrist in a loop fashion.  Apply a second piece perpendicular to the first piece starting on the wrist and extending up to the mid-forearm.   It is best to have someone with experience apply the KT tape on the wrist.  Avoid applying too tight can it can cause numbness, tingling, and reduce blood flow to the hand and fingers.

Why Do You Tape Your Wrists?

KT tape wrist application is used by many practitioners, physical therapists, and trainers for a large number of indications.  The most common use of KT Tape in wrists is to provide stability and support for a wrist sprain.   The secondary goal is to promote healing and prevent additional injury.

Does KT Tape Actually Work?

KT Tape has been used in a variety of ways for different types of injuries.  The results vary but in general, are disappointing.  For trapezius muscle pain KT Tape was shown to improve pain and muscle strength at one month (5).  Unfortunately, there are a large number of different manufacturers and products.  This complicates matters.  A 2019 study found significant differences between tape brands in terms of strength, elasticity, and other physical characteristics.  This puts into question the reliability of previous studies (6). Other studies are summarized below.

2012 meta-analysis demonstrated KT tape provided only trivial pain relief and only a small improvement in strength and range in motion in a small group of injured athletes(7).

2013 review demonstrated that KT tape does not improve athletic performance in healthy individuals (8).

In 2018 Science-Based Medicine examined KT tape and found no evidence to support the claims of improved muscle strength, improved blood flow, and improved pain control.

Is There a Better Option?

Yes!  Wrist ligament sprains can be successfully treated with precise injections of PRP and your own stem cells.  The Centeno-Schultz Clinic Physicians are experts in the treatment of wrist injuries.  Ligaments are critical to the stability and vitality of the wrist and as such should be treated appropriately.  PRP is rich in growth factors that can accelerate healing.  Stem cells are powerhouses that can recruit different cells to aid healing and regeneration.  To learn more about PRP ligament injections and the three-phases of ligament healing please click on the video below.

In Conclusion

The wrist is composed of eight bones that are held in place by ligaments, tendons, and muscles.  Ligaments provide important stability to the wrist.  They are susceptible to injury which is graded 1-3.  KT Tape is a popular elastic tape used extensively by athletes, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts. The proposed benefits include providing support to damaged or weakened joints, decrease pain, and increase blood flow. Unfortunately, these benefits are not supported in various studies. Other options exist for the treatment of ligament injuries in the wrist.  PRP and your own stem cells are effective treatment options that have been used extensively by the Centeno-Schultz Clinic.

If you are limited by persistent pain and swelling in your wrist please consider a Telemedicine consult with a board-certified, fellowship-trained physician.  Learn what treatment options are best of you and loose the bright colored tape.

1.Makhmalbaf H, Shahpari O. Medial Collateral Ligament Injury; A New Classification Based on MRI and Clinical Findings. A Guide for Patient Selection and Early Surgical Intervention. Arch Bone Jt Surg. 2018;6(1):3-7.

2.Mostafavifar M, Wertz J, Borchers J. A systematic review of the effectiveness of kinesio taping for musculoskeletal injury. Phys Sportsmed. 2012;40(4):33-40. doi:10.3810/psm.2012.11.1986

3. Thelen MD, Dauber JA, Stoneman PD. The clinical efficacy of kinesio tape for shoulder pain: a randomized, double-blinded, clinical trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008;38(7):389-395. doi:10.2519/jospt.2008.2791

4.González-Iglesias J, Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Cleland JA, Huijbregts P, Del Rosario Gutiérrez-Vega M. Short-term effects of cervical kinesio taping on pain and cervical range of motion in patients with acute whiplash injury: a randomized clinical trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009;39(7):515-521. doi:10.2519/jospt.2009.3072

4.Thelen MD, Dauber JA, Stoneman PD. The clinical efficacy of kinesio tape for shoulder pain: a randomized, double-blinded, clinical trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008;38(7):389-395. doi:10.2519/jospt.2008.2791

5.. Öztürk G, Külcü DG, Mesci N, Şilte AD, Aydog E. Efficacy of kinesio tape application on pain and muscle strength in patients with myofascial pain syndrome: a placebo-controlled trial. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(4):1074-1079. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.1074.

6. Selva, F., Pardo, A., Aguado, X. et al. A study of reproducibility of kinesiology tape applications: review, reliability and validity. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 20, 153 (2019).

7.Williams S, Whatman C, Hume PA, Sheerin K. Kinesio taping in treatment and prevention of sports injuries: a meta-analysis of the evidence for its effectiveness. Sports Med. 2012;42(2):153-164. doi:10.2165/11594960-000000000-00000

8. Drouin JL, McAlpine CT, Primak KA, Kissel J. The effects of kinesiotape on athletic-based performance outcomes in healthy, active individuals: a literature synthesis. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2013;57(4):356-365.

Learn how Interventional Orthopedics can help you avoid life-altering hand or wrist surgery by reading the cornerstone book, Orthopedics 2.0