When combined with kinesio taping, a form of physical therapy based on the body’s own natural healing mechanisms, spinal stabilization exercises significantly reduce pain and improve overall health and well-being in women with fibromyalgia, a study says.
The study, “Comparison of the effects of stabilization exercise plus kinesio taping and stabilization exercise alone on pain and well-being in fibromyalgia,” was published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and psychiatric disorders, such as depression, all of which contribute to a reduced quality of life and decreased overall well-being.
While the underlying mechanisms of fibromyalgia remain unknown, inflammation of the connective tissue, or fascia — the tissue that supports the body’s internal organs, muscles, and bones — is thought to contribute to the development of widespread chronic pain.
“Since there is no known certain cause, and therefore no cure, the aim of management in FM [fibromyalgia] is to relieve or control symptoms,” the researchers said, adding that a multidisciplinary approach that combines medication and physical therapy is usually recommended.
Spinal stabilization exercise is a form of physical therapy (PT) commonly used to manage pain, especially in the lower back. It relies on several exercises focused on activating and strengthening the deep postural spinal muscles to maintain spine stability, and potentially decrease pain and improve function.
Another common approach in PT is kinesio taping, which consists of applying kinesiology tape — a special elastic tape — on top of an injured or strained area to stabilize it, without compromising the movement of the muscles or tendons in the region. This way, when a person moves, the tape, skin, and fascia also move, pulling slightly away from the muscles underneath and creating space for fluids to flow around and cleanse the inflamed tissue.
Kinesio taping is thought to work by supporting the muscle, boosting the flow of body fluids, activating the body’s natural healing mechanisms, and normalizing muscle tone and fascia abnormalities.
While both therapies have been shown to be beneficial in several muscle- and pain-associated conditions, there is limited data on their effectiveness in fibromyalgia.
Now, researchers in Turkey carried out a randomized clinical trial (NCT03997695) to investigate the therapeutic effects of a six-week spinal stabilization exercise program, with or without kinesio taping, in 36 women with fibromyalgia.
The women were recruited at the physical therapy clinics of the Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, in Turkey. Once enrolled, they were randomly assigned to receive either a spinal stabilization exercise program alone (19 women) or in combination with kinesio taping (17 women).
The spinal stabilization program — aimed at maintaining neutral spinal position and activating core muscles — was carried out twice a week, for six weeks (12 one-hour sessions) by the supervisor physiotherapist. Each session included 10 minutes of warm-up exercises, followed by 40 minutes of spinal stabilization exercises, and 10 minutes of cool-down.
Kinesiology tape was applied to the women’s backs — based on a fascia correction technique — by an experienced physiotherapist at the beginning of each spinal stabilization exercise session.
The researchers conducted several assessments before and after the six-week therapy program. Pain and fatigue were evaluated using the Visual Analog Scale, sleep problems with the Jenkins Sleep Scale, depression with the Beck Depression Inventory, overall health status with the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, and quality of life with the Nottingham Health Profile.
The women’s physical and demographic characteristics — age, body mass index, years of schooling, employment and marital status, smoking, and medication use — were similar in both groups.
The results showed the spinal stabilization exercise program alone significantly reduced pain and depression, and improved sleep quality in women with fibromyalgia. The exercises also improved several aspects of health status and quality of life.
However, when combined with kinesio taping, the exercise program led to a stronger reduction in pain and fatigue, and better health status — days felt good, work missed, pain, and stiffness — compared with spinal stabilization alone. The combination program also led to improved quality of life, or energy level, than did the exercise program alone.
These findings suggest that spinal stabilization exercises, especially when combined with kinesio taping, should be considered an effective option to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia, the researchers said.
“The [kinesio taping] may have favorable additional effects on decreasing pain, fatigue, and stiffness, which may contribute to the increased energy level, and thereby increasing felt good days and decreasing work missed days,” the researchers said. They added that these benefits may be associated with reduced fascial impairment.
The team said future studies should evaluate the long-term effects of this combination therapy, as well as its impact on other clinical symptoms related to muscle strength and balance among those with fibromyalgia. Further studies also are required to better understand the benefits of kinesio taping alone in these patients.
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