Can ESWT Treat Chronic Lateral Epicondylitis Effectively? A Major Study Says Yes.
Chronic lateral epicondylitis (CLE) is the formal name of a condition that many people call tennis elbow. If you suffer from this ailment, the outer part of your elbow is often tender or in pain, and that discomfort increases when you perform actions that exert your wrist, including opening a jar, brushing your teeth, shaking someone’s hand, and lifting objects.
When you repeatedly use the tendons and muscles of your forearm, in the same way, it can lead to CLE. Half of all regular tennis players acquire it, and many golfers, gardeners, and carpenters do as well. In fact, 16 percent of the people who file for workers’ compensation have CLE.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is emerging as a promising way to treat CLE. When patients undergo ESWT treatment, they’re fitted with a pad and administered shockwaves, which are quick, pulsating bursts of energy. Those waves pass from the pad through the skin.
A major medical study suggests that a single session of intense ESWT can be efficient at remedying CLE. In many cases, patients can go back to their jobs within a week after this therapy, which is much sooner than if they’d had surgery.
However, for about three weeks after patients receive this treatment, they aren’t supposed to squeeze or grip things, and they shouldn’t twist the afflicted arm. It sometimes takes a month or so for people to notice that their CLE symptoms are diminishing.
People often experience further improvements after three months, six months, and a year, which is the typical pattern for a tendinopathy that’s healing.
As their conditions improve and after they consult with their doctors, patients can feel free to go back to playing sports.
The American Journal of Orthopedics published the results of a medical study that quantified the success rates of ESWT treatment in dealing with CLE. In part, it did so by using the Roles-Maudsley system of scoring. It calls for participants to rate their pain and discomfort levels on a scale of 1 to 4.
Obviously, these measurements are subjective and depend on each patient’s tolerance for pain, but they can provide researchers with an overall sense of how well a certain type of therapy works. The numbers translate as follows:
1 is excellent. There’s no pain whatsoever.
2 is good. There are bouts of discomfort here and there, but a person has no restrictions as far as activities and lifestyle.
3 is fair. After a person has been active for an extended period, discomfort occurs.
4 is poor. A patient is experiencing regular pain, limiting what he or she can do on a daily basis.
After four weeks, 69.5 percent of patients recorded a score of excellent or good; 19.4 percent rated their condition as fair, and 11.1 percent as poor. Moreover, not one patient reported feeling worse after the treatment than before.
After 12 weeks, 78 percent of the subjects said that their condition was excellent or good; 11.1 percent described it as fair, and 11.1 percent called it poor.
In addition, the study measured patients’ rehabilitation using visual analogue scale (VAS) scores. In this system, people rate their pain from 1 to 10; 1 indicates no pain, and 10 describes excruciating pain.
Prior to treatment, the average score was 8.0. Four weeks after therapy took place, the average dropped to 4. Then, 12 weeks after the treatment sessions occurred, it fell to 2.5.