Living With Polio

“Taping” for Shoulder Pain

From the series, Polio Survivors Ask, by Nancy Baldwin Carter, B.A, M.Ed.Psych, from Omaha, Nebraska, is a polio survivor, a writer, and is founder and former director of Nebraska Polio Survivors Association.

Q: I have a significant pain problem in my shoulder and I’ve heard about a special taping technique used by athletes. What’s the deal? Could it help me?

A: Kinesio® Taping is a method of using therapeutic taping to alleviate pain arising from muscular-skeletal problems. This interview with polio survivor Marlene Orton sheds light on her experiences with this process:

Nancy: What led you to try Kinesio® Taping, Marlene?

Marlene: At the PHI Conference in Warm Springs, the pain in my shoulder suddenly became almost unbearable. By pure luck, Michelle Guevin, PT, MHSc, MTC, a Conference presenter, described Kinesio® Taping, and I asked if she would tape my shoulder.

Nancy: I’ve read that Kinesio® Tex Tape is 100% cotton, and stretches to 30-40% of its resting length, so the muscle has complete range of movement at the same time it’s upheld by the tape. The tape supposedly lifts the skin, reducing edema and inflammation by allowing a freer flow of body fluids. What did you notice about it?

Marlene: I felt it gave me more support and left me more relaxed, feeling comfortable. When my shoulder was in so much pain, I had tried to control the pain by moving more. Directly after the taping, the shoulder had a certain stability that felt good—I knew this was how it belonged. I still had some shoulder pain, but this seemed to be easing up.

Nancy: I know how desperate I become when nothing I do seems to help a situation. How did the taping make you feel?

Marlene: I had been in such awful pain that I actually cried. I was ready to head for home. The first glimmer of hope came when Dr. Maynard and Joan Headley said, “We will find something that will help you.” This allowed me to believe that perhaps there was a way to lessen the pain. I thought, “OK, we’re going to get this worked out.” Icing and other remedies all helped, and after the taping, the pain was so much better that I didn’t want to take the tape off when the three-to-five day wearing period was up. I determined by then that I wanted to have more experience with the taping.

Nancy: I notice that there is no certification required for Kinesio® Taping, nor is there any regulation. How did you find a capable PT to do the job when you got home?

Marlene: It wasn’t easy. I called all over town to find someone with experience to do this. I did a lot of networking, called PTs at numerous sites, investigated sports medicine options, contacted physical therapy colleges, searched online, all with no luck. Finally someone called me back who had found a PT in private practice. She taped my shoulder differently from the way it was done in Warm Springs, but it feels just as effective.

Nancy: What qualifications do you think one should look for?

Marlene: I’d ask how the person was trained in Kinesio® Taping—if he learned from a successful practitioner, or took a continuing education course in the technique, or what. Since so much of this taping is done in sports medicine, I’d want to know if my therapist had experience with people with post-polio or other neuromuscular conditions. Also how long she’d been doing this, and if her goals for me seemed realistic.

Nancy: Is it true that Medicare and other insurance don’t pay for this procedure?

Marlene: Depends. There’s a pretty good chance of getting it paid for if the therapist bills for her skilled services rather than billing for “taping,” which Medicare won’t pay for and neither will most insurance companies. However, considering the part this process played in relieving my pain—well, I’d think twice before saying I wouldn’t shell out for it.

Source: Post-Polio Health International (

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Physical Therapy