Tackling Tennis Elbow
Insights from Physiotherapy and Corticosteroid Treatments
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes significant elbow discomfort and affects many individuals. This article, enriched with the latest research, aims to explore the most effective treatment options.
The Reality of Corticosteroid Injections
Recent studies, including one from the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine, have raised questions about the long-term efficacy of corticosteroid injections for tennis elbow. While these injections offer immediate pain relief, a systematic review and network meta-analysis found that their benefits in pain reduction and functional improvement are generally short-lived, with effectiveness diminishing after the first month.
Physiotherapy: A Step Ahead
In contrast, physiotherapy, with its focus on elbow joint techniques and specific exercises, shows superior long-term results. Physiotherapy not only reduces symptom recurrence but also decreases the need for additional treatments like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as supported by the research.
The Slow Progress of the ‘Wait and See’ Approach
The ‘wait and see’ method, less immediate in impact, still showed notable progress. This approach often required supplementary treatments but exhibited lower long-term recurrence rates compared to corticosteroid injections.
Recent Research and Advancements
The study from the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine also compared other local injection therapies like botulinum toxin (BT) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) with corticosteroids. It found that while corticosteroids and BT provide short-term pain relief, their effectiveness in improving function and strength was not significantly better than placebo in the long term.
Comparing Treatment Outcomes
This comparative analysis highlights the need for treatments that offer sustainable benefits. Physiotherapy emerges as a more enduring solution compared to corticosteroid injections, which, despite providing rapid relief, fail to deliver lasting benefits.
Tennis Elbow Brace Effectiveness
In addition to physiotherapy and injections, another treatment modality for tennis elbow gaining attention is counterforce bracing. A significant study conducted by Martin Kroslak and colleagues, published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, explored the efficacy of counterforce bracing compared to placebo bracing.
This rigorous, prospective, randomised, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled clinical trial spanned over five years, involving patients with acute tennis elbow. The findings were enlightening: both counterforce and placebo braces significantly improved pain, elbow function, grip strength, and reduced tenderness at the lateral epicondyle over six months and at a three-year follow-up.
Notably, the counterforce brace was particularly effective in reducing pain frequency and severity in the short term (2-12 weeks) and enhancing overall elbow function at 26 weeks. These results suggest that while counterforce bracing offers considerable short-term benefits in managing tennis elbow symptoms, its role in long-term recovery needs further exploration in conjunction with other treatment strategies.
More info: Tennis Elbow Braces
Understanding Tennis Elbow and Related Conditions
Recognising the interconnectedness of tennis elbow with conditions like golfer’s elbow and cervical radiculopathy is essential. An effective treatment plan should consider these related issues for a comprehensive recovery process.
What to Do? Seeking Professional Advice
If you’re experiencing elbow-related pain, consulting a physiotherapist is crucial. They can provide a tailored treatment plan, incorporating exercises and manual therapy, suited to your specific condition.
In summary, while corticosteroid injections and other local therapies like botulinum toxin provide temporary relief, physiotherapy stands out as the more effective, long-term treatment for tennis elbow. A combination of targeted exercises and professional guidance is recommended for sustainable management and recovery.