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Success with Knee Taping Leaves Therapists Puzzled

Can knee pain can be reduced by just slapping a piece of tape across the kneecap (patella)? A new study has questioned previous opinions about treating patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) by using specific methods of taping. PFPS is a common cause of knee pain. Anything that pushes the patella against the bone causes pain. This includes such activities as climbing stairs, squatting, and sitting with the knee bent for a long time. Scientists aren't really sure what causes PFPS.

In the 1980s, Jennifer McConnell, a physical therapist from Australia, found a new way to treat this problem. She used tape to hold the patella in place. Each patient was carefully examined for the proper tape placement. This treatment is now called the McConnell Method.

In this study researchers used tape on the knees of 71 patients with PFPS. Each patient was tested without tape and again with tape in one of three places. The patient's pain level was measured when stepping down one time.

The authors report their surprise to find that tape in any position reduced patients' pain by 30 percent. This was true even when tape was just placed across the patella. The specific taping method used most often for PFPS was no better than tape just slapped across the kneecap.

Taping the patella does seem to reduce pain. We're just not sure how. The authors conclude that taping probably doesn't work by changing the position of the patella. There must be some other reason.

Tony Wilson, MSc, et al. A Multi-Center, Single-Masked Study of Medial, Neutral, and Lateral Patellar Taping in Individuals with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. August 2003. Vol. 33. No. 8. Pp. 437-448.


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