Taking the pain out of tennis elbow
Acupuncture combined with massage is effective for tennis elbow. Previous research shows that acupuncture alleviates symptoms in patients with plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee and lumbar pain
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a form of tendinitis. Symptoms are usually pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, forearm and in the back of the hand. Repetitive motions often lead to lateral epicondylitis such as movement during tennis, weight lifting, painting, typing, knitting and woodwork. The pain typically worsens when lifting, gripping, twisting and straightening the wrist. Conventional medical approaches for treating lateral epicondylitis include physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), icing, bracing, local steroid injections and surgery. Acupuncture and TCM tuina massage have
a historical record dating back over 1000 years. This new scientific experiment using a carefully controlled investigation for examining the efficacy of these ancient modalities confirms the historical record.
The combination group received acupuncture treatment after being massaged on the same day. Each treatment modality was applied once daily for all groups. One course of either massage and/or acupuncture consisted of 10 days. There was a two-day pause following the first course. The entire treatment was 2 courses for a total of 20 treatments.
The group that received both acupuncture and TCM massage showed the greatest clinical improvements. A total of 20 patients in the combination group were completely cured after the 20 treatments. Another 5 patients made excellent improvement and an additional 5 patients made moderate improvement. One patient in the combination group made no improvement. Occasionally, patients felt uncomfortable after the acupuncture needling for approximately one day, however, the soreness disappeared after one day’s rest. Based on the results, the researchers conclude that acupuncture and massage are effective in treating lateral epicondylitis for athletes and that combining the therapies increases positive patient outcomes.
There is also positive evidence from individual randomised controlled trials, showing that:
- acupuncture reduced pain in patients with plantar fasciitis (Zhang 2001);
- electroacupuncture had better therapeutic effects than medication, both in the short and long term, in patients with acute lumbar strain (Yao-chi 2007);
- acupuncture plus warmed needle relieved the pain of chondromalacia patella (Qui 2006);
- acupuncture reduced NSAID intake and relieved pain in patients with shin splints (Callison 2002);
- acupuncture reduced the pain of patellofemoral pain syndromes (Jensen 1999);
- acupuncture was effective for soft tissue disease (Yuan 1989) (2)
However, acupuncture is not a miracle cure or quick fix. All these studies were based on a course of treatments and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on best practice now recommend that GPs offer a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain.
1) Qiu, Yanchun (2014) Comparative Study on the Treatment of Acupuncture and Massage of External Humeral Epicondylitis for Athletes. Journal of Guangzhou Physical Education Institute34.1