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Chronic tendinopathy: effectiveness of eccentric exercise
  1. Brett L Woodley1,
  2. Richard J Newsham-West1,
  3. G David Baxter1
  1. 1Centre for Physiotherapy Research, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to:
 Brett Woodley
 c/o Centre for Physiotherapy Research, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; brettandsteph{at}


Objectives: To determine the effectiveness of eccentric exercise (EE) programmes in the treatment of common tendinopathies.

Data sources: Relevant randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were sourced using the OVID website databases: MEDLINE (1966–Jan 2006), CINAHL (1982–Jan 2006), AMED (1985–Jan 2006), EMBASE (1988–Jan 2006), and all EBM reviews – Cochrane DSR, ACP Journal Club, DARE, and CCTR (Jan 2006). The Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) was also searched using the keyword: eccentric.

Review methods: The PEDro and van Tulder scales were employed to assess methodological quality. Levels of evidence were then obtained according to predefined thresholds: Strong–consistent findings among multiple high-quality RCTs. Moderate–consistent findings among multiple low-quality RCTs and/or clinically controlled trials (CCTs) and/or one high-quality RCT. Limited–one low-quality RCT and/or CCT. Conflicting–inconsistent findings among multiple trials (RCTs and/or CCTs). No evidence–no RCTs or CCTs.

Results: Twenty relevant studies were sourced, 11 of which met the inclusion criteria. These included studies of Achilles tendinopathy (AT), patella tendinopathy (PT) and tendinopathy of the common wrist extensor tendon of the lateral elbow (LET). Limited levels of evidence exist to suggest that EE has a positive effect on clinical outcomes such as pain, function and patient satisfaction/return to work when compared to various control interventions such as concentric exercise (CE), stretching, splinting, frictions and ultrasound. Levels of evidence were found to be variable across the tendinopathies investigated.

Conclusions: This review demonstrates the dearth of high-quality research in support of the clinical effectiveness of EE over other treatments in the management of tendinopathies. Further adequately powered studies that include appropriate randomisation procedures, standardised outcome measures and long-term follow-up are required.

  • AT, achilles tendinopathy
  • CCT, clinically controlled trial
  • CE, concentric exercise
  • EE, eccentric exercise
  • FAOS, foot and ankle outcome score
  • LET, lateral elbow
  • PED, physiotherapy evidence database
  • PT, patella tendinopathy
  • RCT, randomised controlled trial
  • RR, relative risk
  • VAS, visual analogue scale WMD, weighted mean difference
  • tendinopathy
  • eccentric
  • systematic review

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  • Published Online First 24 October 2006

  • Competing interests: None identified.