There are many brands of elastic therapeutic tape, the most well known brand being Kinesio tape. This brand of therapeutic tape was developed by Kenzo Kase in 1970 as an adjunct treatment for athletic injuries and a variety of musculoskeletal disorders. Despite being around for nearly forty years, taping remained relatively unknown until a surge in popularity after the product was donated to Olympic athletes in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and 2012 London Summer Olympics. After being featured on this global stage it became common practice to add therapeutic taping to treatments in an effort to accelerate the return to activity, specifically for cases of low back pain. Evidence of efficacy is mostly anecdotal, but there are recent randomized controlled clinical trials showing clinically significant improvements in pain and disability.
Non-specific low back pain
Low back pain is a complex problem, several landmark studies tell us that degenerative features such as disc degeneration and facet degeneration are often a coincidental finding and normal age related changes. This type of back pain is referred to as non-specific low back pain, meaning there is no known pathoanatomical cause. A recent article on non-specific low back pain published in The Lancet, expressed the need to move beyond surgical and pharmacological approaches for low back pain and a called for the use of a number of non-pharmacological approaches.
Therapeutic tape and low back pain
The medical system is looking for new ways to help those who suffer low back pain, and massage therapists are uniquely suited to incorporate a number management strategies including but not limited to education, reassurance, hands on care and therapeutic taping. The application of taping stays on the skin for 3-7 days, during this time the tape stimulates large diameter mechanosensitive nerve fibers. This novel sensory input helps to alleviate pain by preventing or reducing nociceptive traffic into the central nervous system. Essentially, this involves the gate control theory of pain, insofar as nociceptive signals are often modifiable in such a way that the pain experience greatly subsides or disappears altogether. Another proposed mechanism of action is that the application of tape facilitates tissue perfusion and lymphatic flow through a sympathetic vascular reflex and by mechanically increasing the interstitial space where the exchange of gases, nutrients, and metabolites between the blood and tissues occurs.
In acute cases of low back pain, there are many studies that show therapeutic taping provided clinically significant improvements in pain and disability. In chronic cases of low back pain the literature on therapeutic taping is mixed. However there is a recent randomized controlled trial published in the journal Spine, that showed simple application of Kinesio tape over the erector muscle group reduces pain and disability in people who suffer from chronic non-specific low back pain.
For those who suffer from low back pain, taping has been shown to be a safe, effective non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention that is simple to carry out, economical, and has very few and relatively minor side effects. Existing evidence suggests that therapeutic taping decreases the frequency, intensity and duration of non-specific low back pain, giving people confidence in their recovery and may lead to a reduced need for additional medication. However, it does not establish the superiority of taping to other treatment approaches in terms of pain reduction. Additional rigorous study into the mechanisms behind and therapeutic values of taping would be of value.
Al-Shareef, A. T., Omar, M. T., & Ibrahim, A. H. (2016). Effect of Kinesio Taping on Pain and Functional Disability in Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain. Spine.
Balagué, F., Mannion, A. F., Pellisé, F., & Cedraschi, C. (2012). Non-specific low back pain. The Lancet.
Brinjikji, W., Luetmer, P. H., Comstock, B., Bresnahan, B. W., Chen, L. E., Deyo, R. A., . . . Jarvik, J. G. (2015). Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations. American Journal of Neuroradiology.
Foster, E., et al. (2015). Targeted Ablation, Silencing, and Activation Establish Glycinergic Dorsal Horn Neurons as
Key Components of a Spinal Gate for Pain and Itch. Neuron.
Kelle, B., Gu Zel, R., & Sakall , H. (2016). The effect of Kinesio taping application for acute non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Clinical Rehabilitation.
Koes, B. W., Tulder, M. V., Lin, C. C., Macedo, L. G., Mcauley, J., & Maher, C. (2010). An updated overview of clinical guidelines for the management of non-specific low back pain in primary care. European Spine Journal.
Lim, E. C., & Tay, M. G. (2015). Kinesio taping in musculoskeletal pain and disability that lasts for more than 4 weeks: Is it time to peel off the tape and throw it out with the sweat? A systematic review with meta-analysis focused on pain and also methods of tape application. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Maher, C., Underwood, M., & Buchbinder, R. (2016). Non-specific low back pain. The Lancet.
Nelson, N. L. (2016). Kinesio taping for chronic low back pain: A systematic review. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.