"2013 US Open (Tennis) - Qualifying Round" by Steven Pisano is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For Most Patients, Tennis Elbow is Self-Limiting

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Amin Mohamadi, MD, MPH Research Fellow Harvard Medical School Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Boston, MA 02215

Dr. Mohamadi

Amin Mohamadi, MD, MPH
Research Fellow
Harvard Medical School
Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston, MA 02215 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:  “Tennis elbow” is a painful conditions caused by overuse of the tendons in the forearm, typically in a patient’s dominant arm. Overuses syndromes are resulted from repetitive stress injury without signs of inflammation. Tennis elbow afflicts more than 200,000 new patients in the United States every year, which is not only limited to athletes, but also laborers, food industry workers, manufacturers and office workers – anyone who uses the hands and wrists for hours each day. In addition, many clinicians and scientists believe that tennis elbow is a self-limited condition in which, the majority of patients will be symptom-free after a period of time. However, no meta-analysis has evaluated this notion.

Numerous treatments are available for patients to alleviate their pain and restore their pain-free grip strength but few high quality trials and meta-analyses have compared these treatments. In this largest meta-analysis to date, we compared results of 11 different treatment modalities evaluated in 36 randomized to identify if any of these treatments are more effective and safer than the others. Overall,  2746 patients were evaluated in our meta-analysis and we found that all of the evaluated treatments only showed a modest effect, at best , on pain relief and strength of grip. While there was only modest effect for some treatments, all of interventions increased risk of adverse events in comparison with placebo and none of them seemed to be safer than others.

In the next step we were curious to find out what will be outcome of patients who were treated with only placebo, a pill or injection without effective medication or sham treatment— when the therapeutic device was not turned on. Interestingly, we found that across all of clinical trials,  totally 92% of patients experienced substantial pain relief after a month of receiving only placebo or sham treatment. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our results imply that for most patients, tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition.  Based on this analysis, our overall recommendation is “wait and see”. However, for some groups “wait and see” may not be a feasible option, so we recommend for these groups an intervention that is most effective in short-term. Because almost all patients reported only minimal pain after the first four weeks, clinicians treating patients with tennis elbow may consider opting for a pain relief regimen to manage symptoms on a patient-to-patient basis. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research should investigate the outcome rest in comparison with those who continued their actives with same intensity. There are also some evidence showing particular exercises may be beneficial and finally future research can identify if any particular patients group are at higher risk for none pain resolutions.  

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We evaluated almost all of the non-surgical treatments available for tennis elbow and showed that they provide only minimal effect over placebo. For example corticosteroids were more effective than placebo within the first 4 weeks but this effect was transient and did not seem to be effective after 4 weeks. In addition, 47 patients would be needed to get corticosteroid injections so that only 1 less patient suffer from pain compared with those who received placebo.


Jayson Lian, Amin Mohamadi, Jimmy J. Chan, Phillip Hanna, David Hemmati, Aron Lechtig, Ara Nazarian. Comparative Efficacy and Safety of Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Enthesopathy of the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2018; 036354651880191 DOI: 10.1177/0363546518801914 

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Nov 7, 2018 @ 9:28 pm

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