Radial Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy Is Not More Effective Than Placebo in the Management of Lateral Epicondylitis: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial

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The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy (rESWT) on pain, function, and grip strength in the treatment of patients with lateral epicondylitis unresponsive to previous treatments.


A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in outpatient clinics in a medical faculty hospital. Fifty-six patients with lateral epicondylitis were randomized to rESWT (n = 28) or sham rESWT (n = 28) groups. Both the patients and the outcome assessing investigator were blinded to group assignment. The rESWT was administered to the painful epicondyle at the elbow with a total of 2000 pulses of 10 Hz frequency at a 1.8 bar of air pressure at each session at three once weekly sessions. Sham rESWT was applied without the contact of the applicator at the same area. Study patients were assessed at baseline and at 1 and 3 mos after treatment using a visual analog scale for pain and Roles and Maudsley scale and Patient-Rated Tennis Elbow Evaluation for pain and function. Grip strength of the affected extremity was also measured using a hand dynamometer.


Both rESWT and sham rESWT groups showed a significant improvement in all outcome measures at posttreatment follow-up points. Favorable absolute and percentage changes in assessments at 1- and 3-mo posttreatment did not show any significant difference between groups.


The rESWT does not seem to be more effective either in reducing pain or improving function or grip strength in patients with lateral epicondylitis at least at 3 mos after treatment when compared with sham rESWT.

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