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Is KT tape for Achilles pain useful, or just a marketing trick?
If it’s useful, how do you apply KT Tape for Achilles pain?
Our Physiotherapy team share all their tips and tricks for using dynamic tape to help Achilles pain.
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Firstly, what is KT tape?
The tape provides feedback to the brain on whether the joint or muscle is stretching.
That can be useful is the normal mechanism of feedback, from ligaments and muscles, is disrupted by an injury.
The tape doesn’t provide restriction to movement like rigid strapping tape.
So the unique qualities of dynamic tape could be best summed up as “movement feedback without restriction“.
Is KT tape for Achilles pain useful?
KT tape for Achilles pain can be hit and miss, although it’s more of a miss for most people.
This is because the tape only provides feedback on movement – it doesn’t actually support the Achilles tendon.
So KT tape for Achilles pain can be useful in cases when people aren’t aware of the level of stretch in the Achilles tendon during exercise.
This group are often the ones who can train well but get Achilles pain afterwards.
The tape can provide a reminder to not overstretch the tendon in the absence of pain.
For most people though, the pain is a great reminder to not push it too far so the tape wouldn’t help.
Other people with more severe and sensitive cases of Achilles tendinopathy actually need physical support of the Achilles.
This reduces the loads the Achilles is exposed to and can only be achieved with rigid tape, a brace or heel wedges.
How should you apply KT tape for Achilles pain?
When you apply any dynamic tape, remember that its job is to provide stretch feedback to the brain.
With that in mind, it has to be quite firm and noticeably tight in the target position.
Set up position
With KT tape for Achilles pain, you’ll need to know that the tendon is under pressure as soon as the foot moves past 90 degrees (standing position).
So it’s best applied with the foot in a plantarflexed (slightly pointed) position.
You then apply the tape with only a mild pressure from 2″/5cm under the heel and up the Achilles tendon around 8-10″/20-25cm.
The next tape has the same pressure but runs slightly diagonally from one side of the previous tape’s start point to the other side of its end point.
That tape should cross the other tape near the base of the Achilles.
The slightly offset position is to maximise the tape’s contact with the skin (rather than having it pull on the other tape).
The 3rd tape is the mirror image of the 2nd tape, running diagonally in the opposite direction to maximise skin contact.
Now is the time to test the tape tension (try saying that quickly…)
The tape should noticeably tighten up as the foot moves past 90 degrees.
If not, remove and reapply the tape to refine the tension.
If it works as planned, move on to the most important step – anchor the tape.
Anchoring the tape
Any dynamic tape under tension tends to lift off the skin.
The anchor holds it in place to stop it lifting off and to help maintain its tension.
For this step, rigid strapping tape works best.
The anchor tape runs at right angles (perpendicular) to the dynamic tape.
Anchor the dynamic tape under the heel, just above the Achilles and at the top of the tape.
Don’t anchor across the painful part of the tendon as it hates compression from a firm anchor.
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