Whether you’re an athlete, an average Joe or a couch potato, chances are you’ll experience shoulder pain at some point in your life; and if you do have shoulder pain, chances are you’re dealing with shoulder impingement syndrome. According to Onat et al. (2016), “shoulder (or subacromial) impingement syndrome is the most frequent disorder involving the shoulder, accounting for 44% to 65% of all shoulder complaints.”

The pain and loss of function that is associated with shoulder impingement can be treated in a number of ways, the majority of them being non-operative. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been proven to be effective in the fight against shoulder pain, but additions to this solution could help aid in the healing process.

Onat and colleagues set out to test this theory with a common pain management method like corticosteroid injections, and a newer, rising method: kinesiology tape. The authors stated, “The aim of this study was to investigate whether kinesiology taping or subacromial corticosteroid injection provides additional benefit when used with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in patients with shoulder impingement syndrome.”

Shoulder impingement research setup

99 patients with shoulder impingement syndrome were chosen to be in this study after meeting a very specific set of standards. Each participant:

  • Had impingement symptoms in clinical tests
  • Had shoulder radiograph and ultrasound tests done to rule out other causes of shoulder pain, such as osteoarthritis, tendinitis, rotator cuff tear and more.
  • Did not have a history of any rheumatic disease, fracture, infection, tumor, shoulder trauma, surgery, corticosteroid injection, or physical therapy for the symptomatic shoulder within the last six months

After the baseline testing, patients were divided into three groups:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs group
  • Single subacromial corticosteroid injection plus drugs group
  • Kinesiology taping plus drugs group

Each patient in each group was given a home-based exercise program.

In the kinesiology taping group, the tape was applied immediately following the baseline assessment. The tape was worn for four weeks (renewed periodically) and was applied to the supraspinatus and deltoid muscles:

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.27.04 PM

Courtesy of Sahin-Onat S et al. 2016.

The researchers used the following measurements for each of the groups:

  • Pain levels during night, rest, and activity
  • Range of motion
  • Shoulder flexion and abduction
  • External and internal rotation
  • Functional disability

How to improve shoulder impingement therapy

Turns out… it’s a tie! According to the authors, significant improvements were observed in all clinical variables within each group. According to the statistical analyses, there were no differences between the corticosteroid injection and kinesiology taping groups; however, there were significant differences between these two groups and the group receiving only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . The researchers therefore concluded that kinesiology taping could serve as an alternative treatment to corticosteroid injections.


The Performance Health Academy maintains the most comprehensive database of kinesiology tape research and techniques. The Academy database allows you to find and print more evidence-based Kinesiology Taping Techniques for free!

In our #TapeTuesday series, we will be sharing methods for different types of tape application, as well as the accompanying research to support it. We’ll talk about therapeutic and preventive taping, such as TheraBand Kinesiology Tape and Cramer Athletic Tape to name a few. Click here to see our other posts in the #TapeTuesday series!


REFERENCE: Sahin-Onat S et al. 2016. Effectiveness of Kinesiotaping and Subacromial Corticosteroid Injection in Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. Apr 15. [Epub ahead of print]

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