Background: Lateral epicondylitis represents a frequent overuse injury. In spite of many conservative treatment procedures, prolonged symptoms and relapse are frequently observed.
Objective: To compare the outcome of patients performing an isokinetic eccentric training with that of age-, gender-, activity-matched patients receiving a non-strengthening classical rehabilitation.
Methods: Ninety-two patients with unilateral chronic lateral epicondylar tendinopathy (mean duration of symptoms 8±3 months) were assigned either to a control group (n = 46) or to an eccentrically trained group (n = 46). The control group underwent a passive standardised rehabilitation programme that excluded strengthening exercises. In addition to this programme, the trained group also performed eccentric exercises based on the repetitive lengthening of the active musculo-tendinous unit. The latter exercises started with submaximal contraction intensity and slow speed movement. Modalities were progressively intensified (increase in intensity contraction and speed movement) over a long priod of treatment. Programme effectiveness was assessed through pain score evaluation, a disability questionnaire, muscle strength measurement and ultrasonographic examination.
Results: Compared to the non-strengthening control group, the following observations were made in the eccentrically trained group: (1) a significantly more marked reduction of pain intensity, mainly after one month of treatment; (2) an absence of strength deficit on the involved side through bilateral comparison for the forearm supinator and wrist extensor muscles; (3) an improvement of the tendon image as demonstrated by decreasing thickness and a recovered homogenous tendon structure; and (4) a more marked improvement in disability status during occupational, spare time and sports activities.
Conclusion: These results highlight the relevance of implementing isokinetic adapted eccentric training in the management of chronic lateral epicondylar tendinopathy.
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Published Online First 15 January 2007
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