Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a common presentation that can result in postural changes, changes in muscle patterning and alteration in activity levels, all of which can lead to further pain. People with CLBP often have significant delays in making postural adjustments in anticipation of movement. This has been demonstrated in a number of studies since the original findings of Hodges and Richardson in 1999.
Recently a Korean study set out to determine if the addition of kinesiology taping to a standard physical therapy protocol would reduce pain, improve function and alter the “movement related cortical potential”, put simply, a measure of brain activity. They had 20 subjects with CLBP and randomly divided them into 2 groups of 10. Both received “physical therapy” consisting of heat, ultrasound and TENS three times a week for 12 weeks (arguably not an “evidence-based” intervention!!). The control group having a piece of inelastic tape applied across their lumbar spine, whilst the experimental group had 4 pieces of kinesiology tape applied in a star fashion across the area of most symptoms.
Both groups improved in many of the measured parameters, but the kinesiology tape group had a greater increase in the reaction times for the abdominal muscles to contract, and improvements in brain activity. Both groups also had a significant reduction in VAS reported pain and improvements in function as reported by the Oswestry Disability Index, however the kinesiology tape group had the greatest improvement in function. The study concluded that CLBP patients have reduced ability to anticipate movement and at the same time overactivity in the brain. Kinesiology tape improved this reaction to movement and reduced their brain overactivity, therefore improving functional movements.
The study has certain limitations, such as using surface EMG to measure Transversus abdominus function. Also the a priori significance level was set at 0.05, yet the authors then based conclusions on <0.01 demonstrating greater significance than that achieved by <0.05.
However, this study can add to the growing evidence that one of the main benefits of applying kinesiology tape is the interaction with the neural system, perhaps improving the altered feed forward systems that are impaired with chronic pain states.
Bae, S.H., Lee, J.H., Oh, K.A., & Kim, K.Y., (2013). The effects of kinesio taping on potential in chronic low back pain patients anticipatory postural control and cerebral cortex. Journal of Physical Therapy Science 25, 1367-1371.
Hodges, P.W., & Richardson, C.A.,(1999). Altered trunk muscle recruitment in people with low back pain with upper limb movement at different speeds. Archives of Physical Medicine in Rehabilitation 80, 1005-1012