Knee Swelling

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In this post we’re going to show you a taping application to decrease pain and swelling in the front of the knee. It is best used during the first 1-7 days post injury (aka the acute phase) and is great to use following an injury to the knee joint itself (i.e. twisting injury, hyper-extension, etc). For these injuries, typical symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and in some cases a muscle spasm in which the surrounding muscles reflexively tighten to protect the joint 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 something torn? if yes, how big?).)

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

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 knee, you will want to position the anchors up above the knee with the strips crossing the joint down onto the tibia. This will help move the swelling towards the lymph centers and ultimately back up towards the trunk. In the legs, ice and elevation is also key to prevent that swelling from moving down into the calf and foot.

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:

Here is what the final tape application looks like:

Key points:

  • You will need to move the knee into a stretch position before applying the tape. This means bending the knee. Following a new injury, motion will likely be limited. All you need is a slight bend and you can do this passively by using your hands to lift the knee and prop a folded pillow underneath. If motion allows you can move the knee until the foot is flat on the floor (approx 90 degrees of flexion).
  • Once in the stretch position, you will have an anchor portion with 4-5 little strips. Tear the tape and apply the anchor first. Then spread the little strips out over the swollen, painful area without adding stretch. Position the two strips to criss cross each other. Remember- the tape works by pulling on itself! By moving the knee, the tape can be laid down without tension on the strips. If you are unable to bend the knee due to pain or motion loss, the strips can applied with light tension (< 25% stretch).
  • Here is a sample video for the back of the thigh to help with the technique.


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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