Background: The use of ice as a supplement to an exercise programme has been recommended for the management of lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET). No studies have examined its effectiveness.
Objectives: To investigate whether an exercise programme supplemented with ice is more successful than the exercise programme alone in treating patients with LET.
Methods: Patients with unilateral LET for at least four weeks were included in this pilot study. They were sequentially allocated to receive five times a week for four weeks either an exercise programme with ice or the exercise programme alone. The exercise programme consisted of slow progressive eccentric exercises of wrist extensors and static stretching of the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon. In the exercise programme/ice group, the ice was applied after the exercise programme for 10 minutes in the form of an ice bag to the facet of the lateral epicondyle. Patients were evaluated at baseline, at the end of treatment, and three months after the end of treatment. Outcome measures used were the pain visual analogue scale and the dropout rate.
Results: Forty patients met the inclusion criteria. At the end of treatment there was a decline in visual analogue scale of about 7 units in both groups compared with baseline (p<0.0005, paired t test). There were no significant differences in the magnitude of reduction between the groups at the end of treatment and at the three month follow up (p<0.0005, independent t test). There were no dropouts.
Conclusions: An exercise programme consisting of eccentric and static stretching exercises had reduced the pain in patients with LET at the end of the treatment and at the follow up whether or not ice was included. Further research to establish the relative, absolute, and cost effectiveness as well as the mechanism of action of the exercise programme is needed.
- ECRB, extensor carpi radialis brevis
- LET, lateral elbow tendinopathy
- VAS, visual analogue scale
- lateral elbow tendinopathy
- tennis elbow
- exercise programme
- eccentric training
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Competing interests: none declared
This paper was presented at the 10th Symposium in Lixouri, Kefalonia entitled Athletic exercise doping, 3 September 2005.