Corticosteroid Injections Don't Help Tennis Elbow in Long Run

Study shows short-term benefits of injections lost after 52 weeks

FRIDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Tennis elbow, which affects up to 3 percent of the general population and 15 percent of workers in at-risk industries, is better treated with physiotherapy than with corticosteroid injections, according to a report published online Sept. 29 in BMJ.

Bill Vicenzino, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland in Australia, and colleagues randomized 198 participants with a clinical diagnosis of tennis elbow to eight sessions of either corticosteroid injections, physiotherapy or a "wait and see" approach, and followed their improvement at six weeks and 52 weeks.

In the short term, 78 percent of patients receiving corticosteroid injections reported functional improvement compared to 65 percent who received physiotherapy and only 27 percent in the "wait and see" group. However, the researchers found that the recurrence rates were highest (72 percent) and recovery was delayed over the long term in patients receiving corticosteroid injections. No difference was seen at 52 weeks between the physiotherapy and "wait and see" groups.

"The significant short-term benefits of corticosteroid injection are paradoxically reversed after six weeks, with high recurrence rates, implying that this treatment should be used with caution in the management of tennis elbow," the authors write. The "poor overall performance with corticosteroid injections should be taken under consideration by both patients and their doctors in the management of tennis elbow."

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