Taping for back pain

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.

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 (Kelle et al. 2016). 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 (Al-Shareef et al. 2016).

More to Explore

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.

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.

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.

Nelson, N. L. (2016). Kinesio taping for chronic low back pain: A systematic review. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Tu, S.J., Woledge, R.C., Morrissey, D. (2016). Does 'Kinesio tape' alter thoracolumbar fascia movement during lumbar flexion? An observational laboratory study. J Bodyw Mov Ther.