Kinesiology Tape for Your Rotator Cuff and Shoulder


Support Your Shoulder With Kinesiology Tape

You can use kinesiology tape to support your rotator cuff and shoulder.

Verywell / Brett Sears

If you have shoulder pain, you may benefit from physical therapy to help decrease your pain, improve your shoulder mobility and strength, and improve the functional use of your arm. Your physical therapist may use various treatments and modalities to help you return to your optimal function.

Kinesiology tape is a common treatment used in physical therapy. It can be used to help decrease pain, support your joints, manage lymphedema and facilitate normal muscle contractions.

Many times, shoulder pain is accompanied by loss of shoulder range of motion and decreased rotator cuff strength. Your physical therapist can teach you various exercises to improve your rotator cuff strength and shoulder stability.

Kinesiology tape may be used to help facilitate your rotator cuff and shoulder deltoid muscle. It can augment your physical therapy exercises to ensure that you quickly gain strength and proper motion around your shoulder.


Click Play to Learn How to Use Kinesiology Tape

This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD

Learning to apply kinesiology tape to your shoulder to facilitate shoulder and rotator cuff strength may be one component of your PT for shoulder pain. Before applying kinesiology tape, an evaluation by a physical therapist is recommended to assess if you would benefit from this type of taping. Your PT can also tell you of any ​contraindications to using the tape, and she can teach you how to properly cut the tape strips for your shoulder.​

It should be noted that research into kinesiology tape use is limited.

A 2017 study examined the effects of using kinesiotape to manage shoulder pain and to change the throwing kinematics in 20 people. The results showed no difference between patients who used kinesiology tape and those who used a sham (fake) treatment of K-tape. 

This treatment may not offer spectacular benefits and positive results may be due to the placebo effect. The risks of using the tape are minimal as well. Understanding how K-Tape works and what to expect from using it is important.


Apply Tape to the Front of Your Shoulder

The anterior shoulder "I" strip of kinesiology tape.

Verywell / Brett Sears, PT

To begin, be sure your shoulder is clean and dry. If hair is present, a buzz clipper can be used to remove it. You may also want a friend to help you apply the tape to ensure it is done properly.

The first strip to apply is on the front of your shoulder. Here is how you do it:

  • Sit with your shoulder and arm exposed.
  • Cut an "I" strip to the proper length. It should measure from the top of the front of your shoulder to the side of your arm.
  • Reach behind you, placing your shoulder into extension. This stretches the muscles in the front part of your shoulder.
  • Remove about two inches of the tape backing on one end of the "I" strip and place it on the upper part of the front of your shoulder.
  • Remove the backing.
  • Pull the tape so that it is stretched about 25%, and anchor the tape to the side of your arm, about 1/3 of the way down.

Once you have placed the tape on your shoulder, rub it gently a few times. The heat that is generated from the friction helps the tape to adhere to your skin.


Apply Kinesiology Tape to the Back of Your Shoulder

Apply an "I" strip of kinesiology tape to the back of your shoulder.

Verywell / Brett Sears, PT

Once the "I" strip is secured to the front of your shoulder, it is time to place an "I" strip on the back of your shoulder. Here is how to do it:

  • Cut an "I" strip to the proper length. It should reach from the back of your upper shoulder to the side of your arm.
  • Sit comfortably and reach your shoulder across the front of your body. This stretches the back part of your shoulder.
  • Tear off the tape backing on about two inches of one side of the "I" strip and anchor it on the upper part of the back of your shoulder.
  • Peel off the tape backing.
  • Gently pull the kinesiology tape to about 25% stretch, and anchor the end on the side of your arm about 1/3 of the way down. It should slightly overlap the front "I" strip.

Gently rub the kinesiology tape a few times to secure it and improve the adhesion. The tape can be worn for two to five days to help facilitate contractions of your shoulder muscles. It can be worn during athletic activity and can get wet while swimming or bathing.

If you have shoulder pain, you may benefit from improving the strength and muscular coordination of your rotator cuff muscles. Using kinesiology tape may help augment your exercise program so you can return to your previous level of activity quickly and safely.

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.

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