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Knee osteoarthritis (OA) can be a debilitating condition resulting in pain, loss of mobility and a decrease in independence.  Exercise, in particular strengthening exercise, is one of the key components of knee OA management.  However, often the knee pain that is experienced by the patient limits their ability to complete the desired exercises.  This is where kinesiology tape can be a fantastic adjunct to their rehabilitation.

A recent systematic review looked at 18 studies published between 2014 and 2019.  This collated the effects of kinesiology taping for knee OA for 876 participants, aged between 50 and 77 years.  The reviewers looked at the quality of the included studies based on the GRADE approach, as well as their PEDro scores and concluded that the studies were of “moderate to high” quality.

One variable that was measured across all 18 studies was pain.  16 of the 18 studies found that pain was significantly reduced in the kinesiology taping group compared with the control condition.  This accounted for over 90% of the collated participants, with only 2 of the 16 studies finding no change between groups.

Across the 18 trials included in the review, there were a number of other variables that were considered.  Some looked at range of movement (ROM) and some looked at functional performance.  For the 7 trials that considered ROM, 5 of them reported an improvement in ROM in the kinesiology taping group, with 2 showing no change.  For functional performance, there were 10 trials that included this variable: 9 of them found an improvement in function in the kinesiology tape group compared with the controls.

This review confirms the potential benefit of using kinesiology tape to reduce pain in patients with knee OA.  The relative cost and risk are extremely low when compared to other possible interventions that could include medications, injection therapy or bracing.  Kinesiology taping may also assist with improving ROM and function, and it is likely that these benefits could be as a direct result of reducing pain.  Pain reduction could be a key component in the management of knee OA – allowing more exercise for both strengthening surrounding muscles and for assisting in weight loss where required through improving “cardio” exercise tolerance, both of which can be very important for these patients.

Melese, H., Alamer, A., Hailu Temesgen, M., Nigussie, F., (2020) Effectiveness of Kinesio Taping on the Management of Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Pain Research 13:1267-1276  https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S249567