Release Neck & Shoulder Knots With Kinesiology Tape

If you have neck pain, perhaps you have felt those awful knots that reside in the upper trapezius and levator scapula muscles. The muscles make up the part of your shoulder where your neck and shoulder meet. These pesky trigger points can cause pain, tension, and muscular spasm in your neck and shoulders.

Person holding a lift off strip of kinesiology tape
Brett Sears, PT 2014

There are many proposed treatments for releasing trigger points in your upper trapezius and levator scapula muscles. Massage and trigger point release are often used. Historically, electrical stimulation and ultrasound have been used to break up the knots, but scientific evidence indicates that these treatments may not be the most effective.

Stretching your neck muscles can also help to relieve the tension and knots in your neck. Maintaining proper posture may help to keep your symptoms at bay.

You can also use kinesiology tape to help decrease the pain and spasm caused by trigger points in your upper traps and levator scapula muscles.

What Is Kinesiology Tape?

Kinesiology tape is a type of physical therapy treatment that can be used in many different ways. It can help to improve muscular contractions, decrease swelling, and inhibit pain in injured tissues. The tape can also be used for managing lymphedema.

Kinesiology tape can be used to help lift the skin away from underlying tissues, which can help increase circulation and release muscular spasm. This may help to decrease the trigger points and knots that arise in your upper trapezius and levator muscles when you have neck pain.

Using Kinesiology Tape to Decrease Trigger Points

To decrease trigger points in your upper traps and levator muscles, you can use a specific type of kinesiology tape strip called a lift strip. Be sure to review the various types of strips to learn how to properly cut the lift strip.

Before using kinesiology tape, you should consult your healthcare provider or physical therapist to assess your injury and situation. Kinesiology tape is not for everyone, and some people have conditions where the use of kinesiology tape should be avoided altogether. Your PT can evaluate your neck pain and trigger points to determine if you should be using kinesiology tape for your condition.

This is how you use kinesiology tape to decrease spasm and trigger points in your upper shoulders and neck:

  • Sit comfortably with your neck and shoulders exposed.
  • Cut one lift strip for each side of your neck, if needed. The lift strip should be about 3 to 4 inches long.
  • Remove the paper backing in the center part of each strip. The exposed tape in the center should make the strip look like an adhesive bandage. Both ends of the lift strip should still have the paper backing on.
  • Fully stretch the kinesiology tape 100%.
  • Place the stretched tape directly over your trigger points in your upper shoulder area.
  • Remove the backing on either side of the lift strip and place the ends on your skin with no stretch applied.
  • Gently rub the kinesiology tape to help the adhesive adhere to your skin.

Once the tape has been applied, you can leave it there for 2 to 5 days. It can also get wet. Monitor your skin around the tape to watch for redness or other signs of a negative reaction to the tape.

This method of releasing trigger points in the upper trapezius and levator muscles has not been supported by scientific study. Be sure to understand the limitations and expected benefits of using kinesiology taping for this, or any, condition.

While kinesiology taping may be a useful tool to decrease pain and spasm, it does not replace active exercises and postural correction for the treatment of your neck and shoulder pain. Be sure your physical therapist teaches you proper self-care strategies for your specific condition.

If you have neck pain and muscle spasm in your upper shoulders, a trial of kinesiology taping may help decrease your pain and improve your overall condition.

2 Sources
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  1. Draper DO, Mahaffey C, Kaiser D, Eggett D, Jarmin J. Thermal ultrasound decreases tissue stiffness of trigger points in upper trapezius muscles. Physiother Theory Pract. 2010;26(3):167-72. doi:10.3109/09593980903423079

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Knot in Your Neck? 4 Ways to Relieve Trigger Point Pain

    Find home remedies and know when to see a doctor.

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.