04 February 2002
A review of treatments for tennis elbow shows acupuncture might provide temporary relief — but evidence is lacking for some other therapies including surgery, support devices and shock wave treatment.
Commenting on a series of reviews just released, Sydney sports physician and spokesperson for Sports Medicine Australia Dr John Orchard said that cortisone injections, which were not included in the reviews, could be helpful in some cases.
Reviewers said lateral elbow pain (tennis or rowing elbow) was usually self-limiting but could last up to 2 years.
Four small randomised controlled trials found insufficient evidence to support or refute needle or laser acupuncture, although 2 found needle acupuncture was of short-term benefit in pain reduction even though benefits did not last more than 24 hours after treatment. Overall improvement was more likely after 10 treatments.
Surgery — sometimes recommended for chronic cases where other interventions have failed — was unproven as no published controlled trials were found. But case series usually reported good outcomes for pain relief, with few adverse effects.
The effectiveness of shock wave therapy (single-pulsed acoustic wave) was unclear as one trial found benefits while another did not and when pooled, the gains were not statistically significant.
No conclusions could be drawn about orthotic devices, a review of 5 randomised controlled trials (RCT) found.
Last Reviewed: 04 February 2002