elbow is a painful condition caused by overuse and injury
of the muscles and tissues around the elbow, and lasts from
6-24 months. Tasks involving tools like hammers and screwdrivers
are often related to cases, although half of all tennis
players also experience the condition -- as the name implies.
Corticosteroid injections in the elbow, which suppress the
body's natural inflammatory response to injury, have been
deemed safe and effective for short-term medical treatment
of tennis elbow, but their long-term success rate is unknown.
The authors of a study in The Lancet assigned
patients who suffered from tennis elbow into three groups
based on treatment to be provided: wait-and-see (no treatment
besides ceasing activity), physiotherapy, or corticosteroid
injections. Patients underwent six weeks of treatment, and
recovery was evaluated over the following year.
In the nearly 200 patients who completed the
study, injected corticosteroids proved most effective at
the end of six weeks. However, physiotherapy and wait-and-see
groups showed the highest recovery success rates in the
long run. One year after the start of the study, 91% of
the physiotherapy patients and 83% of the wait-and-see patients
claimed success, compared to only 69% of the corticosteroid
These results suggest that rest and physiotherapy
may be more effective than corticosteroid injections for
long-term treatment of tennis elbow. Corticosteroids may
provide a short-term solution to pain and disability, but
will probably only prolong the condition by masking these
symptoms and allowing more damage to be done.
Smidt N, van der Windt D, Assendelft W, et al. Corticosteroid
injections, physiotherapy, or a wait-and-see policy for lateral
epicondylitis: A randomized controlled trial. The Lancet
2002:359, pp. 657-662.