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Many people associate the use of kinesiology tape with sport and active lifestyles, yet there is growing evidence that it can be helpful in painful conditions that restrict people’s everyday function.  Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be a nasty condition, characterised by chronic inflammation and pain, and commonly affects the small joints such as the hands.  This can impair the basic, everyday activities of many people.

A pilot study conducted in Poland looked at the effect of adding kinesiology taping to the usual physiotherapy exercises that patients completed as part of their management of rheumatoid arthritis.  They included 20 subjects with RA, and had 10 subjects complete the usual physiotherapy exercises, and 10 subjects did the same physiotherapy exercises plus had kinesiology tape applied to their hands and forearms.  All subjects completed baseline measures before the trial, measuring hand strength via a dynamometer, and completing a novel “hand function test” which involved screwing and unscrewing a bottle top three times, measured by the time it took to complete the task in seconds.

After 2 weeks of rehabilitation, the measures were repeated.  Both groups had improved their strength and speed in the “hand function” test compared to baseline, however the kinesiology taping group had improved significantly more than the exercise only group.  The authors concluded that kinesiology taping may be a useful adjunct to standard exercise therapy in the management of RA in the hand.  Whilst only a pilot study, this trial demonstrates the potential ability of kinesiology tape to reduce pain in a “non-sporting” context.  This is encouraging for many practitioners who don’t necessarily treat sporting injuries, as they can utilise kinesiology tape to help their patients complete essential daily tasks with less pain, which is arguably more important than improving sporting performance!

Szczegielniak, J., Luniewski, J., Bogacz, K., & Sliwinski, Z., (2012). The use of Kinesio Taping for physiotherapy of patients with rheumatoid hand- pilot study. Ortopaedia, Traumatologica & Rehabilitacja 14, 23-30.