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Carpal Tunnel Taping - Kinesiology vs Athletic Tape

by Patty Weasler, RN September 20, 2019 0 Comments

kinesiology tape on wrist

Kinesiology tape, also known as KT or Kinesio tape, is a lightweight, breathable sports product that supports joints and muscles. When used for carpal tunnel syndrome it opens the space around the median nerve and reduces inflammation. Learn more about carpal tunnel taping, how to apply it and how it can help with carpal tunnel syndrome below.

What is Carpal Tunnel Taping?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a wrist condition when the space that surrounds the median nerve becomes swollen or inflamed which results in nerve compression. When the median nerve is pinched sufferers will feel pain, tingling, or numbness in the fingers and hand.

Kinesiology tape is used in people with carpal tunnel syndrome to support the wrist, improve blood flow, and open the space that surrounds the median nerve to reduce pain and prevent nerve damage. It is one of the most conservative treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome, being both inexpensive and having minimal risks.

The Benefits of Taping

When you look at the benefit-risk ratio for Kinesio taping it is clear that for most people the benefits largely outweigh the risks. Here are a few of the benefits to taping for carpal tunnel:

  • Inexpensive
  • Minimal risks
  • Maintain flexibility
  • Improves circulation
  • Medication free
  • Wear anywhere, anytime

Carpal Tunnel Taping Methods

Athletic tape and Kinesio tape are the two most popular types of adhesive tape for carpal tunnel syndrome. Each one has its pros and cons when using it for carpal tunnel.

Athletic Tape

Athletic tape is rigid, less flexible and porous when compared to kinesiology tape. It is easier to find in stores and is commonly used for ankle sprains or wrist support. It has its own specific taping technique for carpal tunnel.

How to Apply:

  1. Gather your supplies: a roll of athletic tape, scissors, and pre-wrap. The pre-wrap is an optional non-adhesive underlay that is positioned beneath the athletic tape to protect the skin.
  2. Wash your hand and wrist to prepare it for tape application.
  3. Wrap tape around your wrist like a bracelet and then around the palm of your hand, above your thumb. These pieces are the anchors and the lengths do not need to be exact. Just make sure that the tape wraps completely around the hand.
  4. Cut two pieces of tape for the cross straps. Measure the length from the top of your thumb across to the outside of your hand and cut tape accordingly.
  5. Keep your hand in a neutral position. Place one piece of athletic tape on the back of the hand, at the base of your pinky finger, and attach it diagonally across to the base of your wrist.
  6. The second piece of tape should also start on the back of the hand and attach from the area between the thumb and forefinger down to the opposite base of the wrist. The tape should make an X when you are finished.
  7. Check your fingers for adequate circulation. Remove if there is not proper circulation or if you experience pain or discomfort. Athletic tape should be removed or replaced after 48 hours.

Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology taping has a wide variety of applications including shoulder pain, shin splints, tennis elbow, and plantar fasciitis. When using it for carpal tunnel syndrome the goal is pain relief and maintaining an adequate range of motion. Here’s how to effectively use kinesio tape for carpal tunnel.

How to Apply:

  1. Gather your supplies: kinesiology tape and scissors. Some kinesiology tape comes pre-cut.
  2. Clean your lower arm, wrist, and hand with soap and water.
  3. Measure from the middle of your fingers down to your elbow. Cut three pieces of kinesiology tape to fit that area.
  4. At the end of two pieces of tape, bend 1” of tape and cut two holes to fit your fingers with adequate spacing between them.
  5. With your palm facing upward, extend your hand down to the ground and put your middle and ring fingers through the tape with the adhesive side facing your skin.
  6. Remove the adhesive backing and gently put the tape down, extending up your forearm.
  7. Take the second piece of tape with holes cut into it. Face your palm to the ground, put your middle and ring fingers into the holes with the adhesive facing your skin. Gently press the kinesiology tape on your the back of your arm.
  8. The third piece of kinesiology tape should be positioned around your wrist like a bracelet.

Replace the kinesiology tape within a week or when you feel like it is not supporting your wrist.

Athletic Tape vs. Kinesiology Tape

For wrist pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, you’ll see different benefits from athletic tape and kinesiology tape. Take a look at the benefits of each taping application to see which one works best for you.

Athletic tape has historically been used in sports medicine and physical therapy for sprains. It is more rigid than kinesiology tape, giving users a similar experience to wearing a splint. It is inexpensive and easy to find. If you are looking for a higher level of wrist support, then athletic tape is the best choice for you.

Kinesiology tape is a newer product that doesn’t provide significant joint support like athletic tape. The breathable, lightweight tape gently lifts the skin to increase space where the tape is placed allowing for better lymphatic and blood circulation. The Kinesio taping method has been adopted by physiotherapists and other health care professionals as a treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Taking Precautions

Taping can be an effective and inexpensive method in treating carpal tunnel. Combining with stretches and exercises, massage and other treatment methods can increase the effectiveness; however, make sure that you talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause long-term health problems like nerve damage if not treated promptly and correctly.


Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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