Comparative efficacy of the dorsal application of Kinesio tape and splinting for carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized controlled trial

Donnamarie Krause, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Shawn C. Roll, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Heather Javaherian-Dysinger, Loma Linda University


Background: Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) symptoms are problematic especially when signs and symptoms are not substantial enough to require surgical intervention. Conservative treatments have mixed effectiveness, yet are one of the best options for mild to moderate CTS. Kinesio tape is an emerging modality, as it provides biomechanical support while allowing movement. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of dorsal application of Kinesio tape on occupational performance as measured by pain and function in individuals with mild to moderate CTS, as compared with the accepted nonsurgical intervention of general cockup orthosis and lumbrical stretching exercises versus sham tape. Study design: Single-blind randomized controlled trial. Methods: Forty-four participants (68 wrists) with CTS were randomized to one of three interventions: Kinesio tape group, sham group, or standard protocol group. Each completed baseline and four subsequent measurements of numeric pain rating scale, visual analog scale (VAS), Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire (BCTQ), grip and pinch, with application of intervention every three days. Daily symptom journals were completed, standard protocol group recorded wearing schedule and exercises. Results: In the forearm and wrist, a significant reduction in median numeric pain rating scale pain scores in Kinesio tape group was observed (r = 0.76, P = .01; r = 0.77, P = .01; respectively), but not in the standard protocol group (r = 0.51, P = .17; r = 0.53, P = .11) and sham group (r = 0.46, P = .30; r = 0.39, P = .43) with a minimal clinically important difference of 1.0. In the Kinesio tape group, the forearm (24%) and wrist (36%) reached the clinical significance as compared with the standard protocol forearm (18%) and wrist (32%). The minimal clinically important difference for pain reduction on the visual analog scale was 1.64. Kinesio tape and sham group had significant improvement in function, but not the standard protocol group. Discussion: This study provides promising evidence for the use of Kinesio tape as a possible conservative intervention for management of symptoms in individuals with mild to moderate CTS. The study also illuminates new considerations of younger, active individuals reporting signs and symptoms of CTS as well as mechanism of effects on pain reduction. Conclusions: Kinesio tape provided additional improvement in pain and function as compared to the standard approach.