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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Easy Exercise Could Help Treat Tennis Elbow

July 11, 2009

People with pain in the elbow or forearm from playing sports or just from common everyday activities, might be able to use a simple bar and strengthening exercise to alleviate pain, say researchers who are presenting their study results at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting in Keystone, Colorado, July 9th-12th.

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a common condition effecting nearly three percent of the general population, not just those who play tennis. “Our study illustrated that a novel exercise, using an inexpensive rubber bar, may provide a practical and effective means of adding isolated wrist strengthening exercises to a treatment plan,” said lead author Timothy F. Tyler, PT, ATC, Clinical Research Associate, of the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York City.

The study randomized 21 patients with tennis elbow into two groups. Both received the wrist extensor stretching, ultrasound, cross-friction massage, heat and ice for treatment. The eccentric training group performed isolated eccentric wrist extensor strengthening using the rubber bar (Flexbar, Akron OH) while the standard treatment group performed isotonic wrist strengthening exercises. Three sets of 15 repetitions were performed daily as part of a home program with intensity increased progressively during the treatment period. A variety of pain and movement scales were utilized to determine progress. Patients using the rubber bar had vastly better results on all scales, especially related to strength. In fact, given the consistently poor outcomes for patients in the standard treatment group, it was deemed appropriate to terminate the randomization with 21 of the intended 30 patients having already completed the study.

“Compared to other treatments for tennis elbow such as cortisone injections or topical nitric oxide which require direct medical supervision and often side effects, this treatment is not only cost effective but dosage is not limited by the patient having to come to a clinic,” said Tyler.

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