Hannah Montgomery '14

Hometown: Tuscaloosa, AL
Major: Exercise Science
Senior Study Title: “The Effects of Kinesio Tape on Pain and Range of Motion of the Shoulder”
Advisor: Dr. Traci Haydu

Thesis Abstract

During the 2008 Olympics, several professional athletes were seen sporting an accessory that piqued many people’s curiosity: Kinesio tape. The elastic therapeutic tape is used by athletes with injuries and physical therapy patients who are undergoing treatment.

Hannah Montgomery ‘14 noticed the trend among athletes – her best friend even used it to support a torn labrum in her shoulder during volleyball season – and she began to wonder about the efficacy of the tape in the sports realm and the world of physical therapy.

Shoulder injuries are some of the most common injuries reported in the United States, and Kinesio tape is a new technique being used in the rehabilitation of shoulders. The exercise science major decided devote her Senior Study to determining the effects of Kinesio tape on the pain and range of motion (ROM) of patients during shoulder rehabilitation.

Kinesio tape was developed in the mid-1970s by Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist Dr. Kenso Kase after he became fed up with the rigid athletic tape most commonly used for athletes. He decided to develop a product that mimics the skin.

“The tape is close to the thickness of the epidermis, can stretch between 30 percent and 40 percent longitudinally, and works with the body to aid in the healing process,” Montgomery wrote in her Senior Study. “He goes as far as to claim that this new elastic taping technique would re-educate the neuromuscular system, reduce pain, optimize performance, prevent injury, and promote improved circulation and healing.”

For her Senior Study, identified four participants in Tuscaloosa, Ala., who were males and females between the ages of 15 and 55 and attending physical therapy at an outpatient clinic for a post-operative shoulder at a doctor’s referral.

She placed each participant into one of two protocol groups. The participants in the first group were not Kinesio-taped for the first set of three therapy treatments, but for the second set of treatments, the individuals were Kinesio-taped by a licensed physical therapist assistant who was certified in Kinesio taping. Participants in the second group were Kinesio-taped by the same physical therapist assistant during the first set of three therapy treatments, but they were not Kinesio-taped during their second set of three treatments.

“All participants were taped in a way that was appropriate for their specific injury and would facilitate healing the quickest, and all participants followed rehabilitation protocol specific to their shoulder surgery and physician orders,” Montgomery wrote in her Senior Study.

Pain was measured using the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI), which is a self-administered questionnaire dealing with pain and disability. Participants use a zero to 10 scale for each question with zero being no pain and 10 being the worst pain imaginable or so difficult it requires help. Range of motion (ROM) was measured by a licensed physical therapist with a standard goniometer.  The measurements were taken at three different times: baseline, after treatment one, and after treatment two.

The results showed that the SPADI score decreased for three of the four participants. When no Kinesio tape was used, the scores decreased for all participants. The score decreased in only one participant by a larger margin while Kinesio taped than when using no Kinesio tape.

ROM measurements showed an increase in flexion in three of the four participants. Three of the four participants showed an increase in flexion when using no Kinesio tape, and all four participants experienced an increase in flexion when Kinesio taped.

“The findings were inconclusive, as were most of the other studies that I found in journals,” Montgomery said. “There were improvements in both pain levels and range of motion data. It is hard to say how much of the improvements were due to time and physical therapy, and how much were the result of the Kinesio tape application.”  

Montgomery added that there are some findings to take note of when examining the effects of Kinesio tape on pain and ROM of the shoulder during rehabilitation, and the fact that patients self-report their desire to continue use of the Kinesio tape is motivation to continue the study of Kinesio taping.

For future research, Montgomery recommended examining the placebo effect, which is a major question in Kinesio tape research. She also suggested a study that is conducted prior to shoulder surgery that would examine the effects on pain and ROM.

Montgomery, who wants be a physical therapist, began physical therapy school this fall at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“In the medical field, as with so many other fields, there is constant research being done trying to improve methods,” Montgomery said. “Completing this Senior Study taught me the process of research, and it gave me an appreciation for those that do it. I was also able to get a lot of observational hours in a clinic with a physical therapist, and that was crucial in my application to physical therapy school.”

Her advisor, Dr. Traci Haydu, said she was “excited” when Montgomery chose to examine the effects of Kinesio tape on pain and range of motion in post-surgical shoulders.

“Kinesio tape has been around since the 1970s, but we have really only seen it being used in athletics for the last several years, said Haydu, who is an associate professor of exercise science and chair of the Division of Education. “There is still some controversy surrounding the effectiveness of the tape; however, there are only a handful of published research papers that have examined the tape's effectiveness.”

Haydu was so impressed with Montgomery’s Senior Study that she recommended it for the library’s permanent collection.

“Based on the current research, Hannah designed her own study and took the initiative to work with a physical therapist at a clinic over the summer to collect her data. The physical therapist was very interested in her research study and results,” Haydu said, adding that it is likely Montgomery could expand upon her Senior Study in physical therapy school. “Hannah did a fantastic job with her research, data collection and data analysis.”