The objective of this study was to assess a new treatment, Medi-Taping, which aims at reducing complaints by treating pelvic obliquity with a combination of manual treatment of trigger points and kinesio taping in a pragmatic RCT with pilot character.
One hundred ten patients were randomized at two study centers either to Medi-Taping or to a standard treatment consisting of patient education and physiotherapy as control. Treatment duration was 3 weeks. Measures were taken at baseline, end of treatment and at follow-up after 2 months. Main outcome criteria were low back pain measured with VAS, the Chronic Pain Grade Scale (CPGS) and the Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire (ODQ).
Patients of both groups benefited from the treatment by medium to large effect sizes. All effects were pointing towards the intended direction. While Medi-Taping showed slightly better improvement rates, there were no significant differences for the primary endpoints between groups at the end of treatment (VAS: mean difference in change 0.38, 95-CI [- 0.45; 1.21] p = 0.10; ODQ 2.35 [- 0.77; 5.48] p = 0.14; CPGS – 0.19 [- 0.46; 0.08] p = 0.64) and at follow-up. Health-related quality of life was significantly higher (p = .004) in patients receiving Medi-Taping compared to controls.
The authors concluded that Medi-Taping, a purported way of correcting pelvic obliquity and chronic tension resulting from it, is a treatment modality similar in effectiveness to complex physiotherapy and patient education.
This conclusion is obviously nonsense! The authors stated that their trial has ‘pilot character’. The study was not designed as an equivalence trial. Thus it is improper to draw conclusions about the comparative effectiveness of Medi-Taping.
Having clarified this crucial point, we might ask, what is this new therapy called Medi-Taping? This is how the authors of the above paper describe the technique:
…sessions started with an assessment of leg length difference. Patients were asked to lie on their back and the legs were slightly stretched by a soft pull at the ankles. Next, a continuous horizontal line was drawn on the inside of both calves indicating the position of the calves relative to each other. Then the patient was asked to sit up with the legs remaining outstretched. This procedure results in a shift of the line between the two calves for most people. This shift was measured in millimeters as leg length difference.
The patient was then asked to stretch out, lying supine, and the therapist palpated any myogeloses (areas of abnormal hardening in a muscle) and tense muscles areas that could be found next to the cervical spine between the base of the skull and seventh cervical vertebra on both sides. After this treatment the leg length difference assessment was repeated. If there was still a substantial difference. The same treatment was also performed on the thoracic and lumbar spine. Also, the mandibular joint was assessed for tense muscles and, if necessary, treated by palpation.
Next, the leg length difference was assessed again and several tapes were applied as follows: First, two parallel tapes were fixed on both sides of the spine above the erector spinae muscles ranging from the base of the skull to the sacrum. For the application patients were asked to bend forward and to lean on a bench. This position stretches the back and its anatomical structure before applying the tape and thus provides the tape with tension before fixing it. Next a star-shaped pattern of tape (three stripes meeting in one point) was placed on the lower back while the patient was still in the same bent position. Thus, the star tape covered the area of the patient’s maximum pain and additionally stabilized the sacroiliac joint. This tape was placed with maximum tension in the middle section by stretching the tape before application, with the ends (approx. 5 cm) applied without tension. If after this procedure there was still residual pain, a third tape was placed at the gluteus maximus muscle. This tape was first fixed distally from the greater trochanter then stretched up to approx. 80% of the possible tension before the other end was placed on the sacrum. On average six tapes were applied for the gluteus tape.
Patients were instructed to keep the tapes on as long as they stuck to the skin. If the patients had recurring low back pain (LBP) within the same week, they were asked to see the therapist again immediately. Otherwise, the second and the third treatment were scheduled once a week for the following 2 weeks, respectively.
(Elsewhere MEDI-Taping is described differently as a technique using an elastic tape. The tape comes in different colors that are used depending on the patient’s need. The fabric and adhesive are made from cotton and other all natural materials. The tape can be ‘stretched’ in order to better support a given joint or muscle. Through the stretch, the underlying areas are relieved of tension, circulation is improved, and as a result injuries are healing faster. While it is applied to the skin, the tape gently massages the affected area as the body is moving. As the tape is applied, an improvement in motor function and pain relief should be felt immediately.)
Considering the above, I think that the most likely explanation of the outcome of this study (if it ever got confirmed in a properly designed equivalence trial) is that Medi-Taping itself is fairly useless. The fact that it did as well as (more precisely perhaps not worse than) standard physiotherapy is due to its exotic and novel flair which raised expectations and thus contributed to a large placebo response.
Whether my speculation is true or not, I don’t feel that Medi-Taping is the solution to back or any other problems.
The senior author of this study is Harad Walach who has been a regular feature on this blog, and I could not help but notice that he now has 4 affiliations:
- Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany.
- Pediatric Clinic, Medical University Poznan, Poznan, Poland.
- Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, University Witten-Herdecke, Witten, Germany.
- CHS Institute, Berlin, Germany.