The Author

Joachim Zuther, Lymphedema Specialist. Read more
Lohmann Rauscher
MediUSA

Tactile Medical

Elastic Taping in Conjunction with Lymphedema Treatment

 

During the past several years various techniques of elastic taping have become popular adjunct treatment modalities for lymphedema. While elastic taping has been applied for many years to treat conditions such as sports injuries or orthopedic problems, recent studies and patient reports indicate that this technique may also be a useful tool in the treatment and management of lymphedema.

The original technique, Kinesio Taping®, was developed in the 1970s by the Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase. Based on this original technique a number of other taping variations have evolved, and different taping products were developed by a number of manufacturers. All taping products have very similar properties; manufactured with woven cotton fibers, the material has characteristic stretch properties that closely resemble the stretchability of the skin. It is held in place by a hypo-allergenic and latex-free medical-grade acrylic adhesive, which is heat-activated.Perforated with numerous holes the tape allows air to circulate, and while the tape’s cotton fabric will absorb water, the acrylic adhesive next to the skin is waterproof. This enables the patient to shower and swim with the material in place.

The idea behind the tape is to apply a gentle lift on the skin, which then allows the lymphatic vessels underneath to absorb and drain lymphatic fluid from the edematous area into an area with sufficient lymphatic drainage. The goal of this method is to re-direct the flow of lymph from a congested area into an area with sufficient lymphatic flow, thus reducing the volume of the edematous area.

Elastic tape is available in rolls of various widths, or pre-cut shapes; the length and pattern of the application depends on the individual situation and drainage pattern, and takes into consideration additional barriers such as scars and other defects on the skin.

The tape is applied to the skin with slight stretch (just to the tension required to remove the backing) and with the patient’s skin in stretched position. Once the skin returns to the resting position, the tape rebounds, and if applied correctly, rippling convolutions in the tape will become visible. This desired effect deforms the skin and slightly lifts it from the fascia below in order to create a pull force on the filaments anchoring the small lymph vessels within the tissues. This pull force creates openings in the wall of these vessels, which allows more fluid to enter the lymphatic system and subsequently increase lymphatic flow away from the swollen area. By positioning the tape correctly, it is possible to facilitate and channel the lymphatic fluid in the desired direction without restricting muscle and joint movements.

Additional stimulation of the lymphatic system is achieved as the patient performs movements in daily activities, or performs decongestive exercises as instructed by the lymphedema therapist. The tape can be worn several days as long as there are no negative reactions on the skin.

The fact that elastic tape can be worn underneath compression bandages and garments makes it an attractive addition to the gold standard for the treatment of lymphedema, complete decongestive therapy. It is particularly useful in areas affected by lymphedema where bandaging is difficult, or not possible, such as lymphedema affecting the head and neck (see also link “Use of elastic taping in the treatment of head and neck lymphedema” below).

As with any treatment modality for lymphedema, it is important to understand that the tape should be applied by a trained therapist with a thorough understanding of lymphedema. Local contraindications, such as adverse reactions to the tape, radiation fibrosis, wounds, lymphatic cysts and fistulas, as well the risk of damaging the fragile skin of lymphedema patients is a concern to be considered when using elastic taping.

The therapist will instruct the patient to properly remove the tape after several days. The adhesive bond of the tape is best broken by holding up an edge of the tape and gently pushing down on the skin to dislodge it from the adhesive. The use of oil helps to neutralize the adhesive, and removal of the tape in direction of the body hair minimizes the risk of skin irritation.

Additional Reading:

Use of elastic taping in the treatment of head and neck lymphedema

Click here for a PDF Version of this Article

Do you need more information on other topics on lymphedema? Use the “Index” list on the left side of this page and select the article you are interested in. You can also use the “Select Category” window on the right of this page and select the topic you are interested in. Once selected, a new page will load with a number of articles related to the topic you chose. Click on any headline of the articles and the entire article will load up for you to read.

Join Lymphedema Guru, a Facebook page solely dedicated to inform about all things related to lymphedema – news, support groups, treatment centers, and much more

 

42 comments to Elastic Taping in Conjunction with Lymphedema Treatment

  • Susan Baldwin

    I’d like to email this to my physical therapist–is that an option through this page?

    • Joachim Zuther

      Dear Susan: Just copy the URL (the web address in your top browser window) and paste it in the email you plan to send to your PT

  • Valerie Christy

    Must I see a therapist or doctor to get this tape?

    How do I order it? What is pricing?

    Many thanks,
    Valerie Christy

  • James Richardson

    I am a CLT and also a certified kinesio taping practitioner via Kinesio Taping Association International and I have used K-tape on edema for several years and since being trained as a CLT, I have been using K-tape on my patients with lymphedema with nice results. It has proven to be a nice adjunct therapy to the compression bandages. I look forward to seeing further publications on its’ effectiveness for others. Thank you for posting this and making others aware.

  • Hi Joachin, im glad for found this web and look all progress do it in the lymphedema field, let me tell you I’m work with a kinesio tape for several years with a patients with lymphedema and the result its so good, i make combination kt with compression bandage.
    Well hope its possible maintenance a contact with my “professor” and the rest of the people work in this area ( included of course Marina Maduro)
    Greating an d hop we maintenance a contact
    From a land of chocolate
    Ciro Espindola
    PT/MLDT/CST/SERT/MR/OPT/POLD therapist

  • Annemarie

    I’m a RMT/CDT in Ontario, Canada. I’ve done the K-Tape course also; I’m just always concerned about breaking of the skin with removal of the tape …. is that a valid concern or am I worrying needlessly?

    • Joachim Zuther

      Dear Annemarie:

      This is a valid concern. However, if the patients skin is healthy and the adhesive bond of the tape is broken by using oil and by holding up an edge of the tape and gently pushing down on the skin to dislodge it from the adhesive, the risk is minimal

    • Hi AnneMarie,

      If you have a patient with sensitive skin, you can apply a thin layer of Milk of Magnesia to coat the skin. It provides a protective barrier to decrease risk of skin damage.

      Good luck,
      Cynthia

  • Dennis

    This doesn’t seem like a viable alternative for the great majority of us who cannot afford to have our lymphedema treatments applied by a trained therapist.

    I have for some years had considerable success using, on my legs, a layer of Tubigrip above a layer of Kerlix and below a reduced number of compressive wrappings. This technique reduces the total bulk of my treatment, maintains significant compression even if my compressive wrappings become undone for some reason, and makes it easier for untrained home health aides to apply my treatment, and with less training by me required.

    Is anyone else using Tubgrip as part their treatment?

    • tami

      I’d like more info on how you manage. When I treat I look like the michealin man. It’s unconfortable and looks horrible at work. I would love to be able to reduce my wraps

      • Joachim Zuther

        Dear Tami: This blog contains numerous articles on the treatment and management of lymphedema. Please scroll down and check on previous article posts

  • Liz

    Joe, What oil do you recomend pts use to remove the tape? Is it a tape adhesive remover or just regular table or cooking oils?

  • Joan Castro

    In 1938, when I was 12, I was sent to a local clinic once a week to have my left leg taped with a wide adhesive bandage, from the base of my toes to my knee, to compress the swelling. I was born and raised in London and this treatment was set up through my local school medical center. The tape was called elastoplast. When the war came in 1939 I was evacuated from London to Cornwall and the treatment was discontinued. I am now 86 and have had lymphedema for the rest of my life, now in both legs. My memory of adhesive taping is that when the tape was replaced once a week, it was very painful, and the skin on my leg became very red and sore. I now wear Jobst stockings all day and Circaid velcro straps and bandages at night. It seems the elastoplast has now been replaced by something a bit more comfortable, but going back to any kind of adhesive covering of any sort would not be my choice. Joan Castro

  • t.k.thanthoni

    I am having lymphedema of the right lower limb, for the past 8 years caused due to irradiation taken in 1985 for bladder cancer.I am managing with elastic stockinet , imported from Gemany. I am living in India and aged 72 years , male. Can I have your tappings in addition to the stockinet. I do not have any problems on the skin. Please let me know where can I buy this product. I have my daughters living in USA and Canada, and they would buy and send it to me

  • t.k.thanthoni

    Thank u very much Mr. Zuther. Your prompt reply is highly helpful

  • Danette Chancellor

    I am a CLT and would love to add this technique to my skills. Where do I train in order to be compitent in my taping techniques with lymphedema?

    • Joachim Zuther

      Dear Danette:
      Please contact the Academy’s Admissions Representative Carrie at 800-863-5935

  • John Baxter

    Joe, I am an ACOLS graduate CLT-LANA, and am interested in learning this taping technique. Do you offer this course? Can you please send me information pertaining to your course schedule? Thank you

  • Val

    Plese can someone direct me to a therapist skilled in MLD and wrapping. I have Dercum’s Type ll. It seems no matter how my therapist tries, the bandages and/or custom made sleeves just fall to the floor when I stand up! I’ve spent lots of money! My abdomen is huge and filled with fluid s are the tops of my keys and arms. I live in South Orange County, California. I’m in much pain, extremely fatigued, and nauseas most all the time. Please help!

  • Hi there,
    Great article. Very informative. I have to brag about the pics, because they are two pictures I posed for. ;). They were applied by Nicole Scheiman, MHS, OTR/L, LANA, CLT, CKTP. These above mentioned methods have helped many patients. Thank you for sharing this information to all.
    Jennifer Pounds

  • Hi
    Are you sure that lymphatic pathways are conserved in lymphedemas?
    All old radiologic lymphography and lymphoscintigrahy have demonstrated the contrary.
    So I wonder if it is so interesting to put the tape following native pathways?

    Ferrandez JC , Laroche JP, Serin D., Felix-faure C., Vinot JM :Aspects lymphoscintigraphiques de l’efficacité du drainage lymphatique manuel. Journal des Maladies Vasculaires. 1996; 21, 5 :283-289.

  • bar

    Hello, Can you swim with the tape on ?

  • I am using the tape now for lympodema of the arm. I went to a pt person who said she could train me to use it. I am sure with the precut tape I can at least do some of it.

    It seems to be helping my hand after a day. It isn’t so swollen. Too soon to say but I really like the idea behind this take and it is comfortable if you put medicated powder on it if it stars to itch. Good tip for compression sleeves too I think.

  • Ann

    Would kinesiotape help for a 21 year old primary lymphedema active male with knee & lower leg edema, He is wearing pantyhose & bandaging. Can you apply kinsiotape under garment or bandages. Is there any research behind this?

  • Marie

    I’ve had lymphoedema in my left leg for the past 8 yrs and now it has appeared in my right. It is conventrated around my feet and above the ankles. I wear compression stockings but could I use the tape instead of the stockings? I go abroad a lot and would feel less self conscious showing my legs by the pool or going for walks in the sun if I just had the tape on and no stocking.

  • neoma foxx

    I have been living with lympodema for the last 13 years. Today was the first time I have ever heard of Kinesio Taping and all I can say is wow! About 7 years ago I had a Doctor that told me the best medical advice he could give me was to deal with it. So that is what I have been doing and this is the first time I have seen my leg look this close to normal I have hope for the first time in years.

  • FREDDYKOOL

    I NEED HELP DELAND FLORIDA 386-734-3465

  • Susie Greer

    Wondering: if the tape pulls your skin up and away from the nodes so they are able to drain, then, why would one want to put a compression stocking over the tape? Wouldn’t that negate the purpose of the tape lifting the skin off the nodes?

    • Joachim Zuther

      Susie: The tape gently lifts the skin and the rippling convolutions deforms the skin lightly thus creating a slight pull on micro elements within the tissue (anchoring filaments), which creates an additional stimulus for lymph fluid entering small lymph capillaries. If compression bandages are applied in addition to the tape then some of these effects may be negated, you are correct there. However, in most cases the application of padded short-stretch compression bandages is necessary to avoid evacuated lymph fluid from re-accumulating in the skin.

  • karen

    I have it in my leg. I self tape with rock tape. Its brilliant

  • Kristie

    I am a 23 year old active female, I have recently noticed over the past several months swelling in my lower left limb. After visiting several doctors and no knowing what was going on I was told to leave it alone. At this time I was also going to physical therapy for my knee and she loved taping me in all different ways. We just discussed taping for lymphatic flow die to us thinking it was lymphodema. Today was the first time I taped myself after they showed me what to do. I have had great results before with tape and hoping that I could see some with these. Taped both sides of my knee with aa strip beginning with an anchor and did the spider effect with the rest overlapping each other cross cross over my front part of the lower leg. I suggest until you really know what you are doing to study up on the taping techniques or consult a therapist. Stuff can get quite expensive and don’t want to waste it..Happy taping!

  • Alicia

    Hello Mr. Zuther:
    Thank you for all this wonderful information.
    I was Dx with Medullary ThyCa back in 1997, went through a Clinical trial of Zactima (now “Caprelsa”) at Mayo FL (’07-’09) for 1.5yrs and tried the same again for near 2 yrs (’11-’13) after FDA approval. No other therapy, current mets to lungs, liver and bones extensively.
    I was overweight all my life (5’6″, avg 150-170lbs), but was always told I was ‘proportioned’. Really I was not — never had much fat from waist up, but my legs were like tree trunks, and no apparent ankles. However, I also never had a problem with fluid retention that I know of.
    Then this past January I started having pain in my calf when walking so I went to my oncologist thinking I may have a blood clot. Negative but the left leg had only 45% blood flow (80% in right leg). I was put in the hospital for an arteriogram which indicated complete blockage in main left femur artery, another smaller blockage in femur and another near my left foot. While awaiting the doctor (2 hours late) to perform the arteriogram I was made to lie flat on the table and from the first minute the back pain was excruciating. I asked to sit up or lie on side while waiting but was denied. I was in tears until they put me ‘under’ and the pain continued (though lessened) in recovery. Still I didn’t have an issue with swelling. The very day after the arteriogram my left foot went completely numb. Because the back pain continued beyond normal (I take hydromorphone for severe bone tumor pain in my back and legs – and elsewhere albeit less pain) and my foot went numb the oncologist though I may have a tumor pressing on the spinal nerve and I was scheduled for a lower lumbar MRI. Whereas I usually get into the MRI unit the next day, this time I had to wait over 2 wks for an appt and the oncologist prescribed 10 days of Dexamethasone, while I waited, to reduce possible inflammation which could have been causing the pain.
    Just 3 day after this medication ended, over the course of a few hours, my skin reddened and I swelled up all over – mostly legs and feet… so much so that my landlord thought my skin was going to burst and I could feel the sloshing in my legs and feet.
    I spent the next 2 weeks lying with feet over heart and it helped somewhat. Over the course of the next few weeks, each time I saw a doctor (I have quite a few)the swelling wasn’t overly bad and they put it off. I even sent pictures on days the swelling was severe (my feet looked like balloons) yet nothing was done until the end of March when finally I saw my oncologist on a medium swelling day and I was put on 20mg/day Lasix. It didn’t help much after a month and I was switched to 12.5mg hydrochlorothiazide. Still, the swelling is relieved only by lying with feet over heart, and then only if for 2-3 days (not much difference after 8 hours sleep). After 2-3 days lying like that, my legs and feet look ‘normal’ but it takes only a few hours of sitting down for all the fluid to return and after a day of sitting at the computer (I do get up and down and walk around about every hour, tv or wherever) my legs are completely swollen again and my feet look like balloons.
    I was referred to a neurologist who Dx sciatic mononeuropathy and scheduled MRIs of pelvic and femur to ID sciatic involvement causing the numb foot. Nothing was found and she suggested physical therapy. I did not go to PT as the neurologist could not tell me what area the PT would work on because the MRIs didn’t indicate sciatic nerve involvement.
    Then just 3 weeks ago, my endocrinologist actually read the pelvic MRI report and it stated that I had a lesion (bone tumor) on L4 abutting the IVC. (I’d previously been referred to a neurosurgeon due to a ‘protrusion on L4’ as indicated on the February Lower Lumbar MRI, but he said it was so tiny and no surgery was necessary and that “Sorry, but you’ll just have to live with it”). This lesion abutting the IVC was new information to me and the endocrinologist referred me back to the vascular surgeon since it involved circulation. He also said that if the lesion grew and compressed the IVC further, it would worsen the edema in my legs but didn’t comment on any other possible effects. In the past 2 weeks I’ve begun to notice some numbness (albeit slight) on my right foot, in and around the big toe, and a little of second toe.
    T endocrinologist mentioned possibly radiating the lesion if it can be reached. I’m now awaiting an appointment to consult with the vascular surgeon and radiological oncologist about this L4 lesion). Meanwhile, I have another consult appointment scheduled with an orthopedist regarding a lesion high up on the outside of my upper right femur (just under the ball-joint of my hip) as they see it as a fracture risk.

    I know you cannot give a diagnosis or treatment advice, but I would welcome and appreciate your opinion ….
    1) Could an L4 lesion abutting the IVC could cause a numb foot?
    2) Could an L4 lesion abutting the IVC be the reason the Rx doesn’t help rid the fluid retention?
    and,
    3) Could radiation of the L4 lesion worsen the lymphedema?

    I know this was a long post (I’m no good at leaving out details) and I appreciate your time and attention in reading it. I look forward to your reply and opinion regarding my questions.
    Sincerely
    Alicia

    • Joachim Zuther

      Dear Alicia: It is quite possible that a partial blockage of venous return from the lower extremities is the reason for the swelling you are experiencing in your legs. Radiation should not worsen the swelling.
      All the best!