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Elastic Taping: Is it a Stretch to Believe It Could Help with Osteoarthritis?

Elastic athletic tape has been used in various settings with goals such as inhibiting pain, increasing muscle strength, facilitating motor skills, and reducing muscle fatigue – especially when sports injuries or musculoskeletal disorders are present.

The presumed mechanism of action is that the tape may provide some orthopaedic stability while the stretching and contraction of the tape both improves blood and lymphatic circulation. Reports of its effectiveness vary across different applications.1-8  One of those applications involves osteoarthritis of the knee.


The typical age of onset of osteoarthritis of the knee is 40 to 45. Even athletes in their twenties and thirties are more susceptible if they’ve suffered a knee injury or are improperly performing exercises that are demanding on the knees, such as lunges. However, it is true that the prevalence and severity of knee osteoarthritis progresses with age. The prevalence has more than doubled over ten years, pointing to an impending endemic state.9-10 As the world’s tenth largest contributor to years lived with disabilities, surgeries and hospitalisations for knee osteoarthritis cost world healthcare systems billions of dollars yearly.11,12 Could something as simple as elastic taping help?

Kinesio® Taping for Osteoarthritis

There is a fair amount of research regarding the effectiveness of elastic taping and osteoarthritis. A recent addition to this research is a systematic review published in the Journal of Pain Research.8 The study authors reported the results of 18 randomised, controlled trials covering 876 patients. They focused on the Kinesio brand of taping. Moderate to high quality evidence shows that Kinesio taping (KT) can be effective in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee. Studies with shorter timeframes (three or four days) did not find KT effective. One of the included studies concludes that KT effectively improves quadriceps torque and reduces pain for people with osteoarthritis. Overall, KT was found to improve knee pain and function.

KT works independently, but can add to the effectiveness of an overall plan including exercise therapy and weight loss. Physiotherapy ameliorates osteoarthritis progression while quickly reducing pain and improving function with effects comparable to surgery.13-15



  1. 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;38(7):389–395.
  2. 23. Morris D, Jones D, Ryan H, et al. The clinical effects of Kinesio® Tex taping: a systematic review. Physiother Theory Pract. 2013;29(4):259–270.
  3. 24. Abolhasani M, Halabchi F, Afsharnia E, et al. Effects of Kinesiotaping on knee osteoarthritis: a literature review. J Exercise Rehabil. 2019;15(4):498.
  4. 25. Parreira PDCS, Costa LDCM, Hespanhol Junior LC, et al. Current evidence does not support the use of Kinesio Taping in clinical practice: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2014;60(1):31–39.
  5. 26. Lim ECW, Tay MGX. 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. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(24):1558–1566.
  6. 27. Ellis RF. The use and treatment efficacy of kinaesthetic taping for musculoskeletal conditions: a systematic review. NZ J Physiother. 2010;38(2):56.
  7. 28. Montalvo AM, Cara EL, Myer GD. Effect of kinesiology taping on pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injuries: systematic review and meta-analysis. Phys Sportsmed. 2014;42(2):48–57.
  8. Melese H, Alamer A, Temesgen MH, Nigussie F. Effectiveness of kinesio taping on the management of knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Pain Research. 2020;13:1267.
  9. Englund M, Turkiewicz A. Osteoarthritis increasingly common public disease. Lakartidningen. 2014;111(21):930.
  10. Kyu HH, Abate D, Abate KH, Abay SM, Abbafati C, Abbasi N, Abbastabar H, Abd-Allah F, Abdela J, Abdelalim A, Abdollahpour I. Global, regional, and national disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 359 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE) for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet. 2018 Nov 10;392(10159):1859-922.
  11. Hawker GA. Osteoarthritis is a serious disease. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2019 Sep 1;37(Suppl 120):3-6.
  12. Hinman RS, et al. Efficacy of knee taping in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee: blinded randomized controlled trial. BMJ July 19, 2003; 327: 135-8.
  13. Katz J, Brophy R, Chaisson C, et al. Surgery versus physical therapy for a meniscal tear and osteoarthritis. NEJM. Mar 19 2013; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1301408.
  14. Pinto D, Robertson M, Abbott J, et al. Manual therapy, exercise therapy, or both, in addition to usual care, for osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. 2: economic evaluation alongside a randomized controlled trial. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2013; joca.2013.06.014.
  15. Fransen M, McConnell S, Harmer A, et al. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Br J Sports Med. 2015; 49 (24): 1554-1557.


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