Reuters Health

Friday, December 18, 2009

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Simple athletic tape may bring some pain relief to older adults with a form of arthritis that affects the kneecap, a small study suggests.

The study looked at the effects of taping the knee in 14 people with patellofemoral osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis that causes pain behind or around the kneecap.

Taping is known to be helpful for young people with chronic patellofemoral pain — a problem that is fairly common in runners and often associated with a malalignment in the knee joint, where the kneecap tracks along the groove of the thigh bone.

But it has not been clear whether such misalignment is involved in patellofemoral arthritis, or whether kneecap taping can ease the pain of the condition.

For the current study, researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia recruited 14 adults with patellofemoral arthritis and an average age of 57, along with 14 arthritis-free adults the same age.

Using MRI scans, the researchers found that arthritis sufferers did indeed show greater malalignment in the knee joint, including a tendency of the kneecap to sit more toward the outside of the leg.

That misalignment improved when the researchers taped the arthritis patients’ knees. What’s more, they reported less pain during a squatting exercise, according to findings published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

"Our results confirm that patellar taping is an excellent technique which can be recommended for people with (patellofemoral arthritis)," lead researcher Dr. Kay M. Crossley told Reuters Health in an email.

The tape does need to be applied in the appropriate manner, however. Crossley said that a physical therapist would be the best person to do it, and that with instruction and practice, patients could learn to do it on their own.

Taping may not help everyone with the knee condition, however, and many people may need additional treatments. Crossley said she and her colleagues are in the middle of a clinical trial where patients are receiving knee taping combined with other treatments, including exercise therapy.

SOURCE: Arthritis Care & Research, December 15, 2009. 

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Click here to read the article titled Can patellar tape reduce the patellar malalignment and pain associated with patellofemoral osteoarthritis?, in Arthritis Care & Research, authored by Kay M. Crossley, Giovanni P. Marino, Michael D. Macilquham, Anthony G. Schache, and Rana S. Hinman.