Taping is a great way of relieving symptoms of patellofemoral pain by helping to control the position of the patella (kneecap).
For this taping to be effective it is important to understand how your patella needs to be adjusted.
Aim of patellofemoral pain taping
- The purpose of patella taping is to reduce pain and allow muscle strengthening exercises to be done correctly.
- The aim is to move, or control the position of your patella as your knee bends away from any sore spots as it glides or tracks over the femur.
How to tape for Patellofemoral pain
We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any self-treatment.
- Use ‘Hyperfix’ tape applied directly to the skin over your knee.
- This acts as an anchor to apply supporting strips to.
- Decide exactly how you want the patella to be supported. This will depend on which movements cause pain.
- Aim to displace the kneecap away from any pain by tilting up, down, towards the inside, or towards the outside.
- Most patella pain problems require the patella to be displaced or pulled towards the inside.
- Apply strips of 1 inch (3.8mm) nonstretch zinc oxide tape from the outside of your patella and with a little tension secure to the inside of the knee.
- Repeat this as needed to achieve the optimum level of support. It may take a few goes of trial and error to know how best to tape your knee.
- Note, you will not be able to fully bend your knee as this is likely to disrupt how the tape works. If the first attempt is not successful then try a tilt or rotation.
- Tape may need re-applying after a period of time as it naturally stretches, hence the effectiveness is reduced.
The effectiveness of taping should be assessed by performing an activity which usually causes pain (e.g. a squat) before applying the tape, then again afterwards. If the taping has been effective then the activity should be virtually pain-free.
When to tape the patella
- If you have pain on normal daily activities then taping can be applied throughout the day until you have no pain.
- If you have patella pain only on sports-specific activities or muscle strengthening exercises then patella taping should only be done for those exercises.
Why does patellofemoral pain taping help?
- Often the muscle on the inside of your thigh (vastus medialis oblique) is weak and the muscles on the outside of your thigh (vastus lateralis) is tight, or strong in comparison.
- This causes the patella to drift laterally (outwards) too much. Therefore, the patella does not track naturally.
- Over time, friction between your patella and femur (thigh bone) causes inflammation and pain.
- Taping the kneecap so it is pulled medially (towards the inside) helps it track away from any sore spots as your knee bends.
What is required?
- Fixomul/Hypafix type tape.
- 2.5cm (1 inch) nonstretch white zinc oxide tape.
- It is often possible to buy a specific patella taping kit.
- The knee cap should be assessed to work out which way the tape should be applied.
- By moving and applying pressure to the knee cap, it may be possible to determine where the sore spot is and in which direction the patella should be glided.
- This is usually towards the middle of the knee (medially).
- Firstly, apply strips of the Fixomul/Hypafix tape over the patella (kneecap) area.
- Don’ t apply any tension to these strips.
Step 3 – If the patella needs gliding inwards (medially)
- Apply a strip of 2.5cm non-stretch zinc oxide tape from the outer knee to the inner, applying tension before fixing the tape.
Step 4 – If the patella needs tilting
- Apply a strip of 2.5cm non-stretch tape (zinc oxide usually) from the centre of the knee cap towards the inner knee.
- Gently pull on the tape before fixing to assist in gliding the patella towards the inside of the knee.
- This can be increased further by pushing the skin on the inside of knee towards the kneecap before fixing the tape
Step 5 – If the patella needs rotating
- Apply a strip of 2.5cm non-stretch zinc oxide tape from the bottom of the kneecap inwards and upwards diagonally to rotate the patella anti-clockwise.
- To rotate it clockwise, apply tape from the top and pull down and inwards.
- Assess the position of the patella. Additional strips can be applied to increase the strength of the taping.
- Finally, the athlete performs a previously painful activity. If successful there should be at least a 50% reduction in pain if not a complete reduction of pain.
General anterior knee pain taping
A simple taping technique play video which can be done for any anterior knee pain. Its purpose is to encourage the muscles of the thigh to pull in a way that helps patella tracking. This taping works by encouraging the muscles of the leg to keep the knee facing forwards and so encourages correct patella tracking. It is ideal for running and other sporting actives where a full patella taping may be restrictive.
References & further reading
- Google scholar – Patellofemoral pain syndrome taping