How can Kinesio Tape help your shoulder pain?
Kinesio Tape is used in the rehabilitation, fitness, and athletic community for a variety of reasons including
- Pain reduction
- Reinforcement of movement patterns
- Prevention of muscle fatigue
- Alignment of fascial tissues
- Improved fluid dynamics to reduce bruising and swelling
There is little evidence to support the physiologic effects of Kinesio Tape; however, it can assist in decreasing pain, improving performance, and decreasing edema. Whether it actually works, or it is just a placebo effect, the results are still positive.
There are several proposed theories to support the effectiveness of Kinesio Tape
- Tactile stimulation of nerve endings to decrease pain signals to the brain
- Enhanced joint proprioception and awareness of underlying tissues
- Create more space between the skin, fascia, and soft tissue to improve circulation and lymphatic flow
A study done by Thelen in 2008 looked at the clinical efficacy of Kinesio Tape (KT) for shoulder pain in patients diagnosed with RTC tendinitis or impingement. A randomized, double-blinded clinical trial compared the short-term effects of a therapeutic KT application to a sham KT application. The study included 42 subjects between the age of 18 and 24.
Inclusion criteria were shoulder pain prior to 150 degrees of elevation, positive empty can test, positive Hawkins Kennedy, and subjective report of difficulty performing ADLs. Exclusion criteria included shoulder girdle fracture, dislocation/ subluxation, AC joint sprain, concomitant cervical spine symptoms, shoulder surgery within the previous 12 weeks, and pain duration longer than 6 months.
Outcome measures included the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI), pain free active range of motion (AROM), and a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS). Measures were recorded at baseline, immediately after tape application, 3 days and 6 days after tape application. To limit the bias of therapeutic exercise as a factor, all subjects were instructed not to perform upper extremity exercises for the duration of the study. Subjects were instructed to wear the tape for 48-72 hours and then return to clinic for re-evaluation 12-24 hours after removing the tape. Following measurements on the 3 day follow up the tape was then re-applied with the same technique and instructed to wear the tape for an additional 48-72 hours. The subjects returned for the final evaluation on day six 12-24 hours after removing the tape.
ANOVA and MANOVA were conducted to analyze the outcome measures and differences found between the groups. The Sham application group showed no immediate change in any outcome measure. The only measurement to significantly improve immediately following therapeutic tape application was abduction ROM. It demonstrated a mean difference of 19.1 degrees. However, this statistically significant difference was no longer present by day 3. No other significant differences between groups were observed at any of the interval assessments. The therapeutic application group did demonstrate a reduction of VAS (pain) score following immediate application. However, the mean decrease was only 10 mm, and the mean difference between groups of -8.9 mm did not meet the criteria for meaningful change.
Unfortunately, this study did not include a control group, which does not consider the condition’s natural history and recovery timeline. The lack of control and similar improvements seen in both groups at the 3 and 6 day interval raise the possibility that the application of tape may or may not have been beneficial regardless of how it was applied.
Although there was no significant improvement between groups over time, there are still benefits from this study that we can apply to a clinical setting. The immediate improvement in pain-free shoulder abduction range of motion after a therapeutic application of Kinesio Tape suggests that this intervention can be used in the clinic as a tool to assist in therapeutic exercise.
Despite the lack of evidence supporting Kinesio Tape as an effective intervention for treating shoulder pain, there is overwhelming evidence to support the effectiveness of progressive resistance training. Some patients may have decreased mood, motivation, and consistency when performing exercises if they are experiencing pain with the activity, which may affect the efficacy and outcome of the intervention. The application of tape and may help patients be more compliant and eager to participate in therapeutic exercise if they have improved pain free motion, which is a win for any physical therapist.
What is your experience with Kinesio Tape? Does it help improve your performance or decrease pain? Leave a comment to let us know!
Written by Hannah Sweitzer
Thelen MD, Dauber JA, Stoneman PD. The clinical efficacy of kinesio tape for shoulder pain: a randomized, double-blinded, clinical trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Jul;38(7):389-95. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2008.2791. Epub 2008 May 29. PMID: 18591761