Persistent low back pain is a very common problem worldwide costing millions of dollars with a huge variety of interventions being used, often without much success.  Kinesiology taping is a relatively cheap, non-invasive modality that can be used as an adjunct to exercise in this patient cohort.  A Turkish study recently set out to test which application method of kinesiology tape gave superior results in those with persistent low back pain, alongside a generic exercise program.

The study included 125 people with persistent low back pain of at least 3 months duration.  They divided the subjects into 4 groups:

  • Group 1- heat, TENS and exercise
  • Group 2- heat, TENS, exercise and “sham KT” consisting of a horizontal piece of tape across the painful area of the low back (no tape tension)
  • Group 3- heat, TENS, exercise and an Asterix pattern of tape over the low back – one vertical, one horizontal, one on each diagonal, all applied with some tension with the low back in a lengthened position for each piece
  • Group 4- heat, TENS, exercise and two longitudinal paraspinal pieces applied in flexion

Essentially, every group received the same heat, TENS and exercise program and then three groups received one type of tape application.  The “treatment” lasted for three weeks. The study looked at a VAS pain score for activity, night pain and resting pain, as well as a range of movement and two outcome measures – the Oswestry and Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire.  This was done at baseline before intervention, at 3 weeks after completing the treatment phase, then again at 51 days – one month after completing the treatment phase.

The study found that all three taping groups had similarly reduced pain and improved scores on the outcome measures.  This meant that no taping technique showed superior results to others for these variables.  There was no significant change in the range of movement in any group.  After the three-week treatment phase, all groups reported a reduction in pain, however, the VAS-activity score was reduced more in the taping groups.  Even on day 51, the outcome measure questionnaire scores of the taping groups remained significantly improved.

The finding that any taping technique can be helpful for reducing pain in those with persistent low back pain concurs with the findings of Perreira et al (2014). They found that in a group of 148 people with persistent low back pain that applying the tape improved pain and outcome measure scores regardless of which of two application techniques were used.  This finding may not be able to be generalised to those with acute low back pain, or with pain in other areas of the body.  It has been demonstrated in other studies that those with persistent low back pain often have reduced “two-point discrimination” of their low back region and this may be why this group can improve regardless of taping technique used.  That is, they may not be able to detect the subtle differences in “feel” of different techniques that others may be able to?  The authors of this study stated that kinesiology tape may encourage people to “remain active in spite of the pain in their daily lives” and given that we know how important movement and exercise are to those with persistent low back pain, kinesiology tape may play an important role in getting that process started!

There is a growing body of evidence to show that kinesiology tape could be a cheap and non-invasive method of pain relief for people with persistent low back pain.  This could create a window of opportunity to increase their level of activity which is our ultimate goal when trying to help this cohort of people!

Mengi, A. Ozdolap, S., Koksal, T., Kokturk, F. & Sarikaya, S. (2019). Comparison of the effectiveness of different kinesiological taping techniques in patients with chronic low back pain: A double-blind, randomised-controlled study. Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation doi: 10.5606/tftrd.2019.3712

Parreira, P.S., Costa, L.M., Takahashi, R., Hespanhol Jr, L.C., da Luz Jr, M.A., da Silva T.M., & Costa, L.O.P., (2014).  Kinesio taping to generate skin convolutions is not better than sham taping for people with chronic non-specific low back pain: a randomised trial.  Journal of Physiotherapy 60, 90-96.