Physical Therapists Lend a Hand to Patients with Tennis Elbow"Put 'er there, pardner!" With that phrase comes a hand-crushing handshake grip. For the patient with tennis elbow, it also comes with a jolt of elbow pain.
Relief may be close at hand. A study done by doctors and physical therapists compared two forms of treatment for tennis elbow. This condition is also called lateral epicondylitis. Lateral means outside, so all patients had pain along the outside of the elbow.
Group one received wrist manipulation twice a week for up to nine sessions over six weeks. The manipulation was stopped if the painful symptoms went away. Group two had a more traditional physical therapy program with ultrasound, massage, stretching, and strengthening. The same number of sessions was allowed. Both groups were treated by physical therapists.
Results were measured after six weeks using patients' own view of their overall progress. Patients could rate their results on a scale from "complete recovery" to "much worse." Pain, grip force, and activity level were also noted.
The group receiving the wrist manipulation had the better success rate (62 percent compared to 20 percent in the therapy group). Pain in the wrist manipulation group was also much less. All other measures were equal.
The small number of patients (28 total between the two groups) makes this a pilot study. This means they are testing out the idea to see if it's worth studying in greater depth. The researchers think the results can be used now to guide treatment. They suggest the next step is a large-scale trial with a control group (an equal number of people who gets no treatment). The next study will have a longer follow-up as well.
Peter A. A. Struijs, MD, PhD, et al. Manipulation of the Wrist for Management of Lateral Epicondylitis: A Randomized Pilot Study. In Physical Therapy. July 2003. Vol. 83. No. 7. Pp. 608-616.
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