Brace or Kinesio Tape: Which?

by | Injury Q and A

“I’m having knee problems at the moment and have had to stop running. It hurts on the inside just below the joint and hurts when I run but not so much when walking. MRI and scans not showing anything wrong.My physio has given me a knee brace to wear, but my trainer says I shouldn’t wear it and instead use kinesio tape and focus on some corrective exercises. I’m really confused.”

– Edith C.

Matt answers…

Sorry to hear you are struggling, Edith. For a runner, it’s frustrating enough having to put up with an annoying knee pain, let alone receiving contradictory advice from professionals. Without face to face assessment, it is obviously impossible for me to evaluate exactly what is going on but hopefully your physiotherapist has already explained what the source of the issue is.

Pain on the inner knee is often related to irritation at an anatomical  location referred to as the ‘pes anserinus’, where the tendons of three muscles (sartorius, gracilis and semitendinosus) insert just above the insertion point of the medial collateral ligament of the knee. Persistent knee pain here, swelling and tenderness (often through overtraining or insufficient rehabilitation) may indicate an inflammation of the bursa (small lubricating sac) that lies underneath these tendons.

If it were ligament or meniscus related, you’d most likely have a history of some form of twist or fall, or you would be experiencing an occasional ‘giving way’ of the knee when walking. The fact that nothing showed up on the scans is encouraging but like I say a proper assessment is vital in order to diagnose correctly and be able to offer suitable recovery advice.

The question of whether to use a brace when running depends a lot on the individual. Personally, I am rarely a fan of using any form of brace or tape when training. They may help you get from A to B but they are not dealing with the root of the problem on any level and may even cause you to develop a reliance on them. It’s like relying on ibuprofen to get through a run. You’re just masking the problem and potentially doing more harm.

I frequently use kinesiology tape (kinesio tape is a specific brand name) in the initial stages of rehab to help reduce pain but consciously try and reduce its use as the rehab progresses. Your email has in fact prompted me to write an article on the use of kinesiology tape that you can read here.

My recommendation would be to have a professional evaluate what is causing the pain (including a full body running gait analysis to see if your running form is connected) and then put together a comprehensive recovery program that will most likely start with exercises as your trainer has suggested and eventually incorporate running as part of the rehab.

It may initially only be a mile or so but if the rehab program has been successful it will form a solid foundation on which to progressively add more miles without seeing the pain return. A little pain education will also probably help you if this issue has been going on for a while.

I hope this helps, Edith. Stay in touch and let me know how it goes!

Do you have any good/bad experiences of using braces or kinesio tape? Whether you are a therapist, coach or runner we would love to hear from you in comments section below!


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