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  • Study Says Therapeutic Taping No Better Than Other Approaches to Treat Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain, Disability

    Therapeutic taping may be getting increased exposure through its use by high-profile athletes, but authors of a new systematic review say that existing evidence doesn't support the idea that the procedure is superior to other treatment approaches in reducing pain and disability for individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

    In an article published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (abstract only available for free), researchers describe their analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials that included taping (often referred to as "Kinesio taping" or KT) with minimal or placebo intervention, as well as with more active treatment approaches including exercise, stretching, traction, and manipulation.

    Authors limited their analysis to trials that focused on individuals with chronic pain and disability, which they defined as a condition last for more than 4 weeks. Combined, the trials involved 416 patients in the experimental group and 406 in the control group.

    While therapeutic taping was found to be "superior to minimal care"—approaches that included sham taping, no taping, and "usual care"—authors write that "KT is not more effective than other forms of intervention in reducing pain," and "is also not more effective than minimal or other forms of intervention in the reduction of disability."

    They write that "the null effect of KT on disability signals the need for conventional therapy, for example, other active forms of intervention, over and above passive treatment, in the management of musculskeletal pain lasting [longer than] 4 weeks."

    While taping alone didn't seem to produce significant reductions in pain and disability, authors did find evidence supporting its effectiveness as an adjunct to exercise-based treatments in some instances.

    "Our review suggests that KT, when used in combination with conventional therapy, may be effective in reducing pain," authors write. "Our clinical impression is that many clinicians use KT in this way—as an adjunct to exercise."

    The researchers cited limitations that include the small number of studies analyzed and "somewhat varying methodology and treatment 'dosage'" of taping application. That variance included not only how the tape was applied, but the number of treatment sessions (from 1 to 12), the frequency of sessions (from 1 to 5 times a week), the length of treatment (from 1 to 6 weeks) "There is a need for the use of standard application procedures (by body parts) to determine efficacy of [therapeutic taping] in future studies," authors write.

    Partly because of the attention therapeutic taping has received through its use by professional and Olympic athletes, the research results were reported by media outlets including Reuters news service.

    A systematic review on therapeutic taping for spinal pain and disability was recently e-published ahead of print in APTA's journal, Physical Therapy. Full text of that article is available for free to APTA members.

    Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.

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