Efficacy of Knee Tape in the Management of Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Summary written by Kevin Fontaine, Ph.D.
Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is a leading cause of pain, disability, and impaired quality of life in older adults. Because there is no cure for OA, treatments focus on managing symptoms so individuals can maintain reasonable functional capabilities. Knee taping is thought to relieve pain by improving joint alignment and unloading inflamed soft tissue. Hinman and colleagues (British Medical Journal 2003; 327: 135-141) conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial to investigate the efficacy of knee taping for OA.
Methods: 87 patients with symptoms of knee OA were randomly assigned to one of three interventions: therapeutic taping (i.e., rigid tape applied weekly at the medial patellar glide and tilt anteroposterior tilt, and at the infrapatellar fat pad), control taping (i.e., flexible tape applied weekly at the aforementioned sites), and no tape. Main outcome measures, taken at baseline, after the 3-week intervention, and 3-weeks later, included pain (measured by visual analogue scale), perceived change, and measures of disability and quality of life.
Results: The therapeutic tape group reported significantly greater reduction in knee pain and on most study variables. Specifically, 73% of the therapeutic tape group reported a reduction in pain compared to 49% with control tape group and 10% in the no tape group (p <.0001). Significantly greater improvements were found on most measures of pain, disability, and quality of life between the therapeutic and no tape groups. The benefits of the therapeutic taping were maintained three weeks after stopping treatment.
Conclusions: Therapeutic knee taping was found to be an efficacious treatment of pain and disability in persons with knee OA.
Editorial Comments: This study shows that knee taping at the medial patellar glide and tilt and the anteropsterior tilt to the patella, as well as the infrapatellar fat pad reduces pain and disability in patients with knee OA. Moreover, the beneficial effects were maintained three weeks after the treatment was stopped. Interestingly, the magnitude of the effects of taping was comparable to those found with drug therapies, thus, therapeutic taping may offer a simple and effective self-management strategy to manage this chronic disease. The authors note that the taping technique is easy to learn and doesn’t require a specialist trained in physiotherapy or sports medicine. This raises the possibility that a spouse, family member, or the patient herself could learn the taping technique and thereby reduce dependence on their health care provider. Unfortunately it is not known how therapeutic taping reduces pain. It is thought that taping might produce subtle changes in the position of the patella which may alter the magnitude and distribution of pressure and stress on joint structures, while taping the infrapatellar fat pad may reduce strain on soft tissue. The specific mechanism by which taping reduces pain, as well as the long-term effects of taping on knee OA remain to be determined. Nonetheless, taping may provide a simple and effective knee OA self-management strategy.