KT Tape for Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Injuries

What research says about it and how to apply it correctly

Your physical therapist may recommend using kinesiology tape, also known as KT tape, for a rotator cuff or other shoulder injury. KT tape is a stretchy tape that can be worn for days to provide a feeling of joint stability without limiting your range of motion. This may help augment an exercise program to improve shoulder strength and coordination of your rotator cuff muscles.

KT tape is also sometimes used to improve proprioception (the awareness of your body in space) and encourage you to think about the movement your injured shoulder so that you heal without complications. Some believe it can speed healing by increasing the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, but this has not been proven.

This article reviews what research says about the use of KT tape for rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, tendonitis, shoulder impingements, and a variety of other shoulder injuries. It also walks you through how to apply it to the front and back of the shoulder.

KT tape is another name for kinesiology tape, though it is also a brand name. For the purposes of this article, "KT tape" refers to any brand of kinesio tape, of which there are many.


Click Play to Learn How to Use Kinesiology Tape

Does Kinesiology Tape Really Work on the Shoulder?

Research into kinesiology tape use is limited and its benefits are unknown. It's possible that positive results may be due to the placebo effect.

A 2021 review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews explored the benefits of KT taping in people with rotator cuff injuries. Based on an analysis of 23 trials involving 1,054 participants, the researchers could find no clear evidence that KT taping reduced pain, improved joint function, or increased the range of motion of the shoulder compared with sham taping.

With that said, the risks of KT taping are minimal, and it may be helpful if used with other standard tools for rehabilitation.

Applying KT Tape to the Front of the Shoulder

The anterior shoulder "I" strip of kinesiology tape.

Verywell / Brett Sears, PT

Kinesiology tape should be applied to the front of your shoulder first. Start by making sure your shoulder is clean and dry. If hair is present, a buzz clipper or razor can be used to remove it.

Here are the steps to follow. You may want a friend to help you apply the tape to ensure it is done properly.

  1. Sit with your shoulder and arm exposed.
  2. Cut a strip to the proper length. It should measure from the top of the front of your shoulder to the side of your arm.
  3. Reach behind you, placing your shoulder into extension. This stretches the muscles in the front part of your shoulder.
  4. Remove about two inches of the tape backing on one end of the strip and place it on the upper part of the front of your shoulder.
  5. Remove the rest of the backing.
  6. 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, gently rub it a few times. The heat that is generated from the friction helps the tape adhere to your skin.

The aim of kinesiology taping is not to limit the range of motion of your shoulder but to help you maintain awareness of shoulder movements so that you don't overextend the joint during recovery. Proper application is essential.

Applying KT 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 strip is secured to the front of your shoulder, it is time to place one on the back of your shoulder. Here is how to do it:

  • Cut a 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 strip and anchor it on the upper part of the back of your shoulder.
  • Peel off the rest of 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 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.

Can I Get KT Tape Wet?

Yes. You can get kinesiology tap wet, so you don't need to take it off when swimming or bathing. You can also wear it during athletic activity.

1 Source
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 disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Aug 8;8(8):CD012720. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012720.pub2

Additional Reading

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