A randomized controlled trial of extracorporeal shock wave therapy for lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)

Margaret P Staples, Andrew Forbes, Ronnie Ptasznik, Jeanine Gordon, Rachelle Buchbinder
Journal of Rheumatology 2008, 35 (10): 2038-46

OBJECTIVE: The aims of this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial were to determine whether ultrasound-guided extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) reduced pain and improved function in patients with lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in the short term and intermediate term.

METHODS: Sixty-eight patients from community-based referring doctors were randomized to receive 3 ESWT treatments or 3 treatments at a subtherapeutic dose given at weekly intervals. Seven outcome measures relating to pain and function were collected at followup evaluations at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after completion of the treatment. The mean changes in outcome variables from baseline to 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months were compared for the 2 groups.

RESULTS: The groups did not differ on demographic or clinical characteristics at baseline and there were significant improvements in almost all outcome measures for both groups over the 6-month followup period, but there were no differences between the groups even after adjusting for duration of symptoms.

CONCLUSION: Our study found little evidence to support the use of ESWT for the treatment of lateral epicondylitis and is in keeping with recent systematic reviews of ESWT for lateral epicondylitis that have drawn similar conclusions.

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