Kinesiology tape has emerged as a versatile tool in the management of various conditions, including lymphoedema, a chronic condition characterised by the accumulation of lymph fluid and subsequent swelling. 

Kinesiology tape

Kinesiology tape, also known as kinesio tape or elastic therapeutic tape, is a flexible, adhesive tape that is used to provide support and stability to muscles and joints, as well as to facilitate natural movement patterns. Developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase in the 1970s, kinesiology tape is made of a thin, stretchy fabric with an acrylic adhesive backing that is designed to mimic the elasticity and thickness of human skin.

The unique properties of kinesiology tape allow it to stretch longitudinally, providing support and compression without restricting range of motion. The tape is water-resistant and breathable, making it suitable for use during physical activity and in various environmental conditions.

Kinesiology tape is applied directly to the skin over muscles, ligaments, and tendons, with the goal of providing structural support, improving circulation, and reducing pain and inflammation. The tape is typically applied in specific patterns or configurations, depending on the desired therapeutic outcome and the area being treated.

Samples of Kinesiology Tape

Benefits of Kinesiology Tape for Lymphoedema

While it is important to note that kinesiology tape is not a standalone treatment for lymphoedema and should be used as part of a comprehensive management plan, it can play a supportive role in alleviating symptoms and improving quality of life. Kinesiology tape offers several potential benefits for individuals with lymphoedema, including:

  • Compression Support: Kinesiology tape provides gentle, elastic compression when applied to the skin, which can help to reduce swelling and promote lymphatic drainage. By exerting pressure on the affected area, the tape may facilitate the movement of lymph fluid and encourage its reabsorption into the lymphatic system.
  • Lymphatic Drainage Enhancement: Properly applied kinesiology tape can create a lifting effect on the skin, which may stimulate lymphatic vessels and improve lymphatic flow. This enhanced drainage can help to reduce tissue congestion and alleviate discomfort associated with lymphoedema.
  • Muscle and Joint Support: In addition to its compressive properties, kinesiology tape offers support to muscles and joints without restricting movement. For individuals with lymphoedema, this support can help to minimise strain on the affected limb and improve functional mobility, reducing the risk of injury and promoting rehabilitation.
  • Pain Relief: Some patients with lymphoedema experience pain or discomfort due to swelling and tissue congestion. Kinesiology tape may help to alleviate pain by reducing pressure on sensitive structures, improving circulation, and promoting tissue healing.
  • Non-Invasive Treatment Option: Unlike more invasive treatments for lymphoedema, such as surgery or manual lymphatic drainage, kinesiology tape is non-invasive and relatively easy to apply. It can be used as part of a self-care regimen or incorporated into regular physiotherapy sessions, providing patients with a convenient and accessible treatment option.
  • Enhanced Quality of Life: By reducing swelling, improving lymphatic drainage, and relieving pain, kinesiology tape can contribute to an overall improvement in quality of life for individuals with lymphoedema. It may help patients to manage their symptoms more effectively, engage in daily activities with greater ease, and maintain a higher level of independence.

Patient Suitability for Kinesiology Tape

Determining the suitability of kinesiology tape for patients with lymphoedema involves a comprehensive assessment of several factors to ensure safe and effective treatment:

  • Severity of Lymphoedema: The severity of lymphoedema plays a crucial role in determining the suitability of kinesiology tape. Patients with mild to moderate lymphoedema may benefit from tape therapy as part of their management plan. However, individuals with severe lymphoedema may require more intensive treatments, and the use of kinesiology tape may need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Skin Integrity: It is essential to assess the integrity of the patient's skin before applying kinesiology tape. Patients with compromised skin, such as open wounds, cuts, abrasions, or dermatitis, may not be suitable candidates for tape therapy due to the risk of skin irritation or damage. Any existing skin conditions should be addressed and treated before considering kinesiology tape.
  • Allergies and Sensitivities: Some patients may have allergies or sensitivities to the adhesive components of kinesiology tape. Before applying the tape, it is important to inquire about any history of allergic reactions to adhesive materials. Patients with known allergies may require patch testing or alternative tape options to minimise the risk of adverse reactions.


Certain medical conditions or contraindications may preclude the use of kinesiology tape. Patients with active infections, deep vein thrombosis, or other circulatory disorders should consult with a healthcare professional before undergoing tape therapy.

Ability to Tolerate Compression

Patients with lymphoedema may have varying tolerance levels for compression. While kinesiology tape provides gentle compression, some individuals may find it uncomfortable or restrictive. It is essential to assess the patient's tolerance to compression and ensure that the application of kinesiology tape does not exacerbate discomfort or compromise circulation.

  • Consultation with Healthcare Provider: Ultimately, the decision to use kinesiology tape for lymphoedema management should be made in consultation with a qualified healthcare provider, such as a physiotherapist or lymphoedema therapist. Dr Ngo works with a nationally recognised multidisciplinary team of lymphoedema experts at Australian Lymphoedema Education, Research, and Treatment centre (ALERT) (***ANNE TO INSERT LINK) at Macquarie University Hospital in Sydney. The healthcare team at ALERT can assess the patient's condition, evaluate the appropriateness of tape therapy, and provide guidance on treatment options.
  • Individual Patient Factors: Consideration should be given to individual patient factors, such as age, medical history, mobility, and lifestyle. Patients with multiple comorbidities or complex medical conditions may require a more cautious approach to tape therapy. Additionally, patient preferences and goals should be taken into account when determining suitability for kinesiology tape.

Risks of Kinesiology Taping for Lymphoedema

While kinesiology tape can offer benefits for individuals with lymphoedema, it is important to be aware of potential risks associated with its use such as:

  • Skin Irritation: Improper application or prolonged wear of kinesiology tape may lead to skin irritation, redness, or itching. The adhesive backing of the tape can cause friction against the skin, particularly in sensitive areas. Individuals with lymphoedema may be more susceptible to skin irritation due to compromised lymphatic drainage and impaired skin barrier function.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to the adhesive ingredients in kinesiology tape. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include rash, swelling, or blistering at the site of tape application. Patients with a history of allergies to adhesive materials should be cautious when using kinesiology tape and may require patch testing to identify potential allergens.
  • Discomfort or Tightness: In some cases, patients may experience discomfort or a sensation of tightness due to the compression exerted by kinesiology tape. While the tape is designed to provide gentle compression, individuals with lymphoedema may find it uncomfortable, particularly if applied too tightly or over an extended period. It is essential to monitor the patient's comfort level and adjust the tension or positioning of the tape as needed to alleviate discomfort.
  • Risk of Adverse Events: Although rare, there is a potential risk of adverse events associated with kinesiology tape application, particularly in individuals with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. Adverse events may include blistering, bruising, or tissue damage at the site of tape application. Patients should be closely monitored for any signs of adverse reactions, and tape therapy should be discontinued if adverse events occur.
  • Infection Risk: If the skin underneath the kinesiology tape is not kept clean and dry, there is a risk of bacterial or fungal infection. Moisture trapped beneath the tape can create an ideal environment for microbial growth, particularly in individuals with lymphoedema who may have impaired lymphatic drainage and increased susceptibility to infections. Proper skin hygiene practices should be emphasised to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Adverse Effects on Lymphatic Drainage: While kinesiology tape is often used to promote lymphatic drainage, improper application or excessive tension may have the opposite effect and impede lymphatic flow. This can exacerbate swelling and discomfort in individuals with lymphoedema. It is essential to adhere to proper application techniques and monitor the patient's response to tape therapy to ensure that it is supporting, rather than hindering, lymphatic function.

By being aware of these potential risks and taking appropriate precautions, lymphoedema therapists can minimise the likelihood of adverse events and ensure safe and effective use of kinesiology tape in individuals with lymphoedema. It is essential to conduct a thorough assessment of the patient's suitability for tape therapy and provide education on proper application techniques and skin care to mitigate potential risks.

Procedure for Applying Kinesiology Tape for Lymphoedema

The procedure for applying kinesiology tape for patients with lymphoedema requires careful attention to detail and adherence to proper techniques to ensure safe and effective treatment. 

  • Assessment and Evaluation: Before applying kinesiology tape, it is essential to conduct a thorough assessment of the patient's lymphoedema, including evaluating the extent of swelling, skin integrity, and any contraindications to tape therapy. Assessing the patient's range of motion and functional limitations can also help determine the appropriate taping technique.
  • Preparation of the Skin: Start by cleaning the skin thoroughly with mild soap and water to remove any dirt, oils, or residues. Dry the skin completely to ensure proper adhesion of the tape. Shaving may be necessary to remove excess hair and create a smooth surface for tape application.
  • Selection and Cutting of Tape: Choose the appropriate type and size of kinesiology tape based on the patient's needs and the area being treated. The tape should be cut into strips or specific shapes as required, taking into account the size and contours of the affected limb.
  • Application Technique: Position the patient in a comfortable and relaxed position, ensuring that the affected limb is adequately supported. Begin by applying a base strip of tape along the length of the affected area, with no tension or stretch. This serves as an anchor for subsequent strips of tape.
  • Tension and Stretch: When applying subsequent strips of tape, apply gentle tension and stretch to create the desired level of compression. It is important to maintain consistent tension throughout the application process to ensure uniform support and compression. Avoid overstretching the tape, as this may lead to discomfort or impaired circulation.
  • Specific Taping Techniques: Depending on the goals of treatment, various taping techniques may be employed to address specific aspects of lymphoedema management. For example, fan-shaped or lattice patterns can help to promote lymphatic drainage and reduce swelling, while spiral or wave patterns may provide additional support and stability to the affected limb.
  • Overlap and Coverage: Overlap each strip of tape by approximately 50%, ensuring that there are no gaps or wrinkles in the tape. Pay special attention to areas of high tension or movement, such as joints, and apply additional strips of tape as needed to provide adequate support and reinforcement.
  • Activation and Rubbing: After applying the tape, the therapist will gently rub the surface of the tape to activate the adhesive and ensure secure adhesion to the skin. They will smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles to ensure a snug fit and optimal contact with the skin.
  • Education and Aftercare: Provide the patient with instructions on how to care for the tape, including avoiding excessive moisture, heat, or friction. Advise the patient to monitor for any signs of skin irritation or discomfort and to seek medical attention if adverse reactions occur. Educate the patient on proper removal techniques to prevent skin damage and ensure comfort.
  • Follow-Up and Monitoring: Schedule follow-up appointments to monitor the patient's response to tape therapy and make any necessary adjustments to the taping technique. Regular assessment of the patient's lymphoedema status and treatment progress is essential for optimising outcomes and ensuring continuity of care.

By following these steps and guidelines, lymphoedema therapists can effectively apply kinesiology tape for patients with lymphoedema, providing support, promoting lymphatic drainage, and enhancing overall management of the condition. 

Recovery Timeline and Expected Outcomes

The recovery timeline and expected outcomes for the application of kinesiology tape in patients with lymphoedema can vary depending on various factors, including the severity of the condition, adherence to treatment, and individual response. While kinesiology tape can be a valuable adjunctive therapy, it is important to manage expectations and recognise that it is not a standalone solution for lymphoedema management. 

Immediate Effects

Some patients may experience immediate relief from discomfort and a reduction in swelling following the application of kinesiology tape. The tape's compressive properties can help alleviate pressure on the affected area and promote lymphatic drainage, leading to immediate symptomatic relief.

Short-Term Benefits

Within the first few days to weeks of treatment, patients may notice improvements in symptoms such as reduced swelling, improved range of motion, and decreased pain. Kinesiology tape can provide temporary support and stability to the affected limb, allowing patients to engage in daily activities with greater comfort and ease.

Long-Term Management

While kinesiology tape can offer short-term benefits, it is most effective when used as part of a comprehensive, long-term management plan for lymphoedema. Patients may need to continue using kinesiology tape regularly, along with other interventions such as compression therapy, exercise, manual lymphatic drainage, and skin care, to maintain optimal outcomes and prevent disease progression.

Individual Variation

The response to kinesiology tape therapy can vary widely among individuals. Factors such as the severity of lymphoedema, overall health, adherence to treatment, and lifestyle factors can influence treatment outcomes. Some patients may experience significant improvements in symptoms and functional status, while others may have more modest benefits.

Multimodal Approach for Lymphoedema Management

Optimal management of lymphoedema often requires a multimodal approach that addresses the underlying causes and symptoms from multiple angles. Kinesiology tape can be one component of this comprehensive approach, working synergistically with other therapies to achieve optimal outcomes. Patients should work closely with their lymphoedema therapist to develop a personalised treatment plan tailored to their specific needs and goals.

Monitoring and Adjustments of Kinesiology Taping for Lymphoedema

Patients using kinesiology tape for lymphoedema should be regularly monitored by healthcare providers to assess treatment progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan. This may include modifying the taping technique, adjusting the frequency of tape application, or incorporating additional therapies based on the patient's response and changing needs.

While kinesiology tape can provide immediate symptomatic relief and support for patients with lymphoedema, its long-term effectiveness depends on its integration into a comprehensive management plan. By combining kinesiology tape with other therapies and addressing individual patient needs, lymphoedema therapists can help patients achieve optimal outcomes and improve their quality of life despite the challenges of lymphoedema.


Kinesiology tape represents a promising adjunctive therapy for managing lymphoedema by providing support, facilitating lymphatic drainage, and reducing swelling. However, its use should be guided by careful assessment of patient suitability, consideration of potential risks, and adherence to proper application techniques. It is important for patients to work closely with experienced lymphoedema therapists and adopt a holistic approach to treatment that may include other forms of lymphoedema symptom management such as Lymphoedema Decongestive Therapy. Regular follow-up appointments are crucial for monitoring progress, adjusting treatment strategies as needed, and optimising long-term outcomes.

If, however the conservative treatments like those mentioned above fail to alleviate the symptoms of lymphoedema, or are not possible due to particular lifestyle factors, operations such as Lymph Node Transfer Surgery and Lymphovenous Anastomoses Surgery are surgical options that may be considered for lymphoedema. While these procedures carry risks like any surgery, they can potentially offer significant relief for patients struggling with chronic swelling and discomfort. For patients who are considering surgical intervention for their lymphoedema, consulting with a Specialist Plastic Surgeon with subspecialty training in lymphoedema surgery, like Dr Quan Ngo, can help patients to explore the best course of action for their individual circumstances. Dr Ngo one of the surgical co-founders of ALERT at Macquarie University Health Sciences Centre in Sydney, an internationally awarded multidisciplinary lymphoedema research and treatment centre sought by lymphoedema patients from Australia as well as overseas. 

Non-Instructional Image: This image does not depict the actual procedure and should not be replicated.