Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ


What do you think about laser treatments for tennis elbow? My cousin swears by them but I'm a little dubious to try something that new.


Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It's a form of low intensity light treatment that actually uses electromagnetic waves as a source of energy. The theory is that a narrow focused beam of light aimed at disrupted tissue such as occurs with tennis elbow can stimulate blood flow to the area and a healing response. But studies have only produced contradictory results. It may be safe, but it appears to be ineffective in the treatment of this condition. Much work remains to be done before scientists are satisfied that laser can be used safely and effectively for lateral epicondylitis. Trials using different doses and wavelengths are needed to compare one to another until the optimal use of laser is determined. It's possible that only a certain subgroup of patients with tennis elbow respond well to laser. Finding that subgroup is important in directing patients to the right treatment approach for them. It's also possible that when combined with another modality or treatment method, laser would yield even better results. But we don't know that yet. Robert M. Szabo, MD. Steroid Injection for Lateral Epicondylitis. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. February 2009. Vol. 34A. No. 2. Pp. 326-330.

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