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Unsupervised isometric exercise versus wait-and-see for lateral elbow tendinopathy

journal contribution
posted on 2020-02-18, 00:00 authored by V Vuvan, B Vicenzino, R Mellor, Luke HealesLuke Heales, BK Coombes
Purpose This study aimed to investigate the effect of unsupervised isometric exercise compared with a wait-and-see approach on pain, disability, global improvement, and pain-free grip strength in individuals with lateral elbow tendinopathy. Methods Forty participants with unilateral lateral elbow tendinopathy of at least 6 wk duration were randomized to either wait-and-see (n = 19) or a single supervised instruction session by a physiotherapist, followed by an 8-wk unsupervised daily program of progressive isometric exercise (n = 21). Primary outcomes were Patient-Rated Tennis Elbow Evaluation, global rating of change on a six-point scale (dichotomized to success and no success) and pain-free grip strength at 8 wk. Secondary outcomes were resting and worst pain on an 11-point numerical rating scale, and thermal and pressure pain thresholds as a measure of pain sensitivity. Results Thirty-nine (98%) participants completed 8-wk measurements. The exercise group had lower Patient-Rated Tennis Elbow Evaluation scores compared with wait-and-see at 8 wk (standardized mean difference [SMD],-0.92; 95% confidence interval [CI],-1.58 to-0.26). No group differences were found for success on global rating of change (29% exercise vs 26% wait-and-see (risk difference, 2.3%; 95% CI,-24.5 to 29.1)), or pain-free grip strength (SMD,-0.33; 95% CI,-0.97 to 0.30). No differences were observed for all secondary outcomes except for worst pain, which was moderately lower in the exercise group (SMD,-0.80; 95% CI,-1.45 to-0.14). Conclusions Unsupervised isometric exercise was effective in improving pain and disability, but not perceived rating of change and pain-free grip strength when compared with wait-and-see at 8 wk. With only one of the three primary outcomes being significantly different after isometric exercises, it is doubtful if this form of exercise is efficacious as a sole treatment. © Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.






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Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, USA

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

The University of Queensland; Griffith University

Era Eligible

  • Yes


Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise