Objective: To analyze whether a corticosteroid injection in combination with rehabilitation early in the course of lateral epicondylitis (LE) alters the outcome up to 6 months after injection compared with a control injection and rehabilitation.
Design: Randomized, controlled, double-blind study.
Setting: Sports medicine center in a tertiary care center.
Participants: Subjects with a diagnosis of LE whose symptoms had been present less than 4 weeks were included. Subjects were recruited by word of mouth and through advertising. The 39 subjects who were recruited were 18 to 65 years old.
Interventions: 19 subjects were randomized to receive rehabilitation and a sham injection, and 20 were randomized to receive rehabilitation and a corticosteroid injection. At 4 and 8 weeks, they were reevaluated and their treatment programs were modified, if indicated.
Main outcome measures: Outcome measurements were performed at baseline, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, and 6 months, and included a functional pain questionnaire and a visual analogue pain scale. Painless grip strength on the affected side and maximal grip strength bilaterally were measured at baseline, 4 weeks, and 8 weeks.
Results: There were no significant differences in outcome between the two groups with the exception of an improvement in the visual analogue pain scale in the corticosteroid group from 8 weeks to 6 months. Outcome measurements in both groups improved significantly over time; more than 80% of subjects reported improvements from baseline to 6 months for all scales.
Conclusion: A corticosteroid injection does not provide a clinically significant improvement in the outcome of LE, and rehabilitation should be the first line of treatment in patients with a short duration of symptoms.