The treatment of lateral epicondylalgia, a widely-used model of musculoskeletal pain in the evaluation of many physical therapy treatments, remains somewhat of an enigma. The protagonists of a new treatment technique for lateral epicondylalgia report that it produces substantial and rapid pain relief, despite a lack of experimental evidence. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled repeated-measures study evaluated the initial effect of this new treatment in 24 patients with unilateral, chronic lateral epicondylalgia. Pain-free grip strength was assessed as an outcome measure before, during and after the application of the treatment, placebo and control conditions. Pressure-pain thresholds were also measured before and after the application of treatment, placebo and control conditions. The results demonstrated a significant and substantial increase in pain-free grip strength of 58% (of the order of 60 N) during treatment but not during placebo and control. In contrast, the 10% change in pressure-pain threshold after treatment, although significantly greater than placebo and control, was substantially smaller than the change demonstrated for pain-free grip strength. This effect was only present in the affected limb. The selective and specific effect of this treatment technique provides a valuable insight into the physical modulation of musculoskeletal pain and requires further investigation.
Copyright 2001 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.