How to Use Kinesiology Tape to Treat SI Joint Pain

Osteopath applying kinesiology tape to pregnant woman

If you have sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain, then you understand how difficult it can be to treat. The pain, located on one or both sides of your back just above your buttocks, seems to come and go, and it can limit your ability to bend, sit, and perform many recreational activities.

Your physical therapist can help treat your SIJ pain. He or she can determine the cause of your pain and to devise strategies to help decrease your SIJ pain and improve your overall mobility. Specific exercises for SIJ pain can be prescribed, and therapeutic modalities may be necessary to help decrease the pain and inflammation around your SIJ.

Kinesiology tape can also be used to help treat your SIJ pain. Kinesiology tape is a cotton, flexible tape that can be used to help decrease pain and muscle spasm, facilitate muscular function, and decrease muscle trigger points.

Before using kinesiology tape to treat your SIJ dysfunction, you should speak with your doctor or physical therapist to be sure that it is safe to use. Some people with specific conditions should avoid using the tape.

Also, you should familiarize yourself with the various types of kinesiology tape strips and learn how to cut and apply the tape properly. To treat your SIJ pain with kinesiology tape you will need to be able to reach your back. It is advisable to have a friend or family member help you.

How to Apply the Tape

To use kinesiology tape to treat your SIJ pain, follow these simple steps:

  • Cut three lift off strips of kinesiology tape about 4 to 6 inches in length.
  • Sit in a chair and bend your body forward slightly.
  • Apply one lift-off strip at an angle over your SIJ with 100% stretch on the tape.  The ends should be adhered with no stretch.
  • Apply the next lift-off strip, again with 100% stretch, at a 45-degree angle to your first strip.  You should now have an "x" over your SIJ.
  • Apply the final lift-off strip with 100% stretch across the "x" made by the first two pieces of kinesiology tape.

You should now have a star-shaped pattern of tape over your painful SIJ. The tape can stay over your SIJ for 3 to 5 days. Be sure to watch for signs of irritation around the tape. If your skin becomes irritated, remove the tape and check in with your physical therapist for other treatment options for your SIJ pain.

So What Is the Tape Actually Doing?

When using kinesiology tape to treat sacroiliac joint pain, one question that is often asked is, "How does this work?" There are a few theories as to why the tape help decrease SIJ pain, but no specific published data to support using this technique.

One theory about the mechanism of action of the kinesiology tape is that it helps to lift the overlying tissue off of your painful SI joint, and this can help decrease the pressure around your joint.

Another theory is that the lifting off of tissues helps to create a pressure differential under the tape, and this allows for increased circulation to the tissues surrounding your SI joint. This increased circulation helps to bring in fresh blood and nutrients, and this can help create an environment where optimal healing can take place.

Finally, some healthcare practitioners theorize that the kinesiology tape helps to facilitate proper muscular activation in the muscles around the SI joints. This improved muscular activation helps to keep your pelvis and SI joints in the proper position, and thus relives your SIJ pain.

A word of caution: kinesiology tape is a relatively new treatment, and rigorous scientific data on the effect of using the tape for your SIJ pain has not yet been published. Does that mean that it does not work? Not necessarily, but it is important to understand what to expect when using kinesiology tape to treat your SIJ pain.

If you have SIJ pain, you should visit your physical therapist to learn the correct exercises and treatments to help manage your condition. Kinesiology tape for your SI joint may be one component that can help decrease your pain and improve your overall pain-free mobility.

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