Calf- step 1

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In this post we’re going to review two kinesiology taping applications for the calf. The goal for both is to decrease pain and swelling and they are best used during the first 1-7 days post injury (aka the acute phase). These are great to use following a calf muscle strain, tear, or contusion. For these injuries, typical symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and in some cases a muscle spasm in which the injured muscle reflexively tightens to protect itself from further damage.

(NOTE: use common sense here. Pain, swelling, and bruising is worth a visit to your MD for several reasons. At the very least it will allow for assessment of severity (is there a tear? if yes, how big?). It will also help assess for/rule out anything more serious. For example, this is blood clot territory and using this kind of treatment is contraindicated for that particular diagnosis. Be smart! A pulled calf muscle after a day on the track is one thing, but random pain, swelling, or bruising require medical attention.)

What you will need:

1) Roll of kinesiology tape

2) Sharpest scissors in the house.

Prep work:

1) Clean skin. This means no oils or lotions of any kind. You want your skin to be clean and more importantly dry. Moisture of any kind = tape will fall off or fail to stick altogether.

2) Hair care. Ideally, the less hair the better. Guys, this means that for best results you will need to trim any long leg hair or shave the calf area.

3) If clean, dry, and hairless skin still = no sticking of tape. Time to get some adhesive spray like Tuf Skin.

4) The tape should last 3-5 days. You can get it wet and shower with it on. Just towel dry it after. No hair dryer! The tape is heat activated. 😉

Technique #1- Swelling + Bruising

The basic idea of this application is that you anchor one end of the tape down and then use it’s 4-5 little fingers to lift the skin and pull the underlying swelling towards that anchor. For the calf, you will want to position the anchor up towards the knee. This will help move the swelling towards the lymph nodes behind the knee and ultimately back up towards the trunk.

You will need to create two identical strips for this application. Here is a sample piece with a 1-2 inch anchor and five strips:

In the video below you will find directions for how to determine the tape length, cut the strips, and most importantly how to apply it to the calf.

Key Points:

1) You will need to move the calf area into it’s stretch position. This means straightening the knee and dorsiflexing the ankle. A great way to do this is by moving into the lunge position. Be sure to keep the knee straight and heel down.

2) Once in the stretch position, you will have an anchor portion with 4-5 little strips. Tear the tape as shown in the video and apply the anchor first. Then spread the little strips out over the swollen, painful area without adding stretch.

3) This is what the finished tape job looks like:

4) If the calf is too painful to put into the stretch position by lunging forward, lay flat on your stomach with the foot/ankle hanging off and then try to pull the foot up as far as you can comfortably. If no stretch is comfortable, you can add a small stretch to the tape (0-15%).

Technique #2 - Pain

Like the technique above, this tape application is geared towards decreasing the symptoms in the early days post injury. Instead of using the tiny little strips, however, we are going to use four separate pieces of tape to create a star shape over the painful area.

Here is a video demonstration:

This is what it looks like when it’s done:

Key Points:

1) We are going to use the same stretch position as we did in the application above - lunge position with the injured leg in the back, knee straight and heel down.

2) Measure out your tape so that it covers the painful area and there is enough for 1″ of tape on either side. These 1″ regions will be your anchors and you want to lay them down with NO STRETCH.

3) Once your strips are cut, fold the tape as shown in the vide0 and remove the paper backing in between the anchors. From here you will want to stretch the middle portion halfway, not 100% full stretch. Lay the tape down over the painful area with that stretch, rub the tape to warm up the adhesive, and then remove the paper and lay the anchors down one by one.

4) When you are done, you will have the star shaped pattern shown above.


1) Capobianco, Dr. Steven and van den Dries, Greg. (2009). Power Taping, 2nd Edition, Rock Tape Inc, Los Gatos, CA.

2) Hammer, Warren. (2007). Functional Soft-Tissue Examination and Treatment by Manual Methods, 3rd edition. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc, Sudbury, MA.

3) Kase, Kenzo, Wallis, Jim, and Kase, Tsuyoshi. (2003). Clinical Therapeutic Applications of the Kinesio Taping Method.

4) Muscolino, Joseph. (2009). The Muscle and Bone Palpation Manual. Mosby, Inc, St. Louis, MO.

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