Should You Avoid Using Kinesiology Tape?

Contraindications to Using Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape is a relatively new tool used in physical therapy that is not appropriate for everyone. This stretchy cotton tape is thought to ease pain and disability from sports injuries and a variety of other physical disorders but can make certain conditions worse.

Even the adhesive backing on kinesiology tape (also known as K-tape or the brand name Kinesio tape) can cause allergies in people who are hypersensitive to acrylic.

This article describes the absolute contradictions of kinesiology taping (meaning situations in which the tape should never be used) as well as some relative contradictions of K-taping (in which the tape may pose risks in certain groups).

Kinesio Tape on a runner's calf.
Clive Brunskill / Getty images

Purpose of Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape is meant to provide support to joints while allowing for the movement of the joint. Its main aim is to increase proprioception (the awareness of a body part in space). This can help you remain conscious of the limitation of a joint following an injury or surgery and, by doing so, avoid complications that can delay healing.

Others contend that K-taping can treat conditions like rotator cuff tears, Achilles tendinopathy, low back pain, and lymphedema, although these benefits have not yet been proven.

It is also unclear if K-taping can improve athletic performance as some people claim.

Absolute Contraindications to Using Kinesiology Tape

An absolute contraindication is when a medical treatment or procedure should never be used due to the high risk of harm, injury, or death.

The following is a list of absolute contraindications to kinesiology taping:

  • Severe allergic reactions: Kinesiology tape adheres to the skin using acrylic-based adhesives. If you have a history of a severe allergic reaction to acrylic or other components of the adhesive, avoid using this tape.
  • Open wounds: If you have an open wound or surgical incision that is not fully healed, do not use kinesiology tape. The tape can trap moisture that promotes the growth of bacteria, increasing the risk of infection.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): This is when a blood clot develops in a deep vein of the arm or leg. If you've been diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, placing K-tape near the clot can increase blood flow and cause it to become dislodged. It can then move to the lungs where it can cause a pulmonary embolism.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes: If you have pins-and-needles sensations (known as peripheral neuropathy) due to uncontrolled diabetes, K-tape can make the sensations worse. You should also avoid placing K-tape on or near a diabetes sore as these are already difficult to heal.
  • Active cancer: If you are undergoing cancer treatment, you should avoid using kinesiology tape since it can increase blood flow to the tumor and help "feed" its growth.

If you have any of these problems, advise your healthcare provider or physical therapist before undergoing any form of physical therapy.


Click Play to Learn How to Use Kinesiology Tape

This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD

Relative Contraindications to Using Kinesiology Tape

Relative contraindications are situations in which a treatment or procedure may be harmful if precautions are not taken. In such situations, you and your healthcare provider will decide if the benefits exceed the possible risks.

Relative contraindications for kinesiology taping include but are not limited to:

  • Skin sensitivity: If you have sensitive skin, kinesiology tape may irritate the skin. To check, apply a small piece of tape to your skin and see if there is any reaction after an hour or so.
  • Thinning skin: If you are older and have thinning skin, kinesiology tape can be problematic as it is generally worn for a longer period of time. In such cases, K-tape may cause injury when removed if your skin is prone to tears, abrasions, and easy bruising.
  • Lymph node removal: If you've had lymph nodes removed, placing K-tape over the surgical site can cause lymph fluid to build up, leading to lymphedema (tissue swelling due to lymph fluid overload).
  • Congestive heart failure: Because heart failure already causes an excessive buildup of blood in the heart, K-taping can make it worse by redirecting even more blood into the heart.

If you have any of these conditions, let your healthcare provider or physical therapist know so that you can weigh the benefits and risks of K-taping.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gianola S, Iannecelli V, Fascio E, et al. Kinesio taping for rotator cuff diseaseCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Aug 8;8(8):CD012720. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012720.pub2

  2. Cheatham SW, Baker RT, Abdenour TE. Kinesiology tape: a descriptive survey of healthcare professionals in the United States. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2021;16(3):778–96. doi:10.26603/001c.22136

  3. Wu WT, Hong CZ, Chou LW. The Kinesio taping method for myofascial pain control. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:950519. doi:10.1155/2015/950519

  4. Smykla A, Walewicz K, Trybulski R, et al. Effect of kinesiology taping on breast cancer-related lymphedema: a randomized single-blind controlled pilot study. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:767106. doi:10.1155/2013/767106

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