Chronic epicondylitis: effects of real and sham acupuncture treatment: a randomised controlled patient- and examiner-blinded long-term trial

Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2002 Aug;9(4):210-5. doi: 10.1159/000066030.


Objective: The clinical long-term effectiveness of real and sham acupuncture treatment on differentiated pain measurement was evaluated in chronic lateral epicondylitis, an example of a tendomyotic disorder.

Methods: Randomised, examiner- and patient-blinded controlled clinical study.

Outcome measurement: pain at rest, pain on movement, pain on exertion, frequency and duration of pain. Real acupuncture (n = 23) was tested versus invasive sham acupuncture (n = 22). Ten treatments were given (2 treatments/week). Patients were examined at baseline (E1) as well as 2 weeks (E2), 2 months (E3) and 1 year (E4) after the end of treatment. In the treatment with real acupuncture, acupuncture points were selected and mechanically stimulated while in the sham group non-acupuncture points were selected.

Results: There was no significant difference between the groups at baseline for any outcome parameter. Two weeks, 2 months and 1 year after the end of treatment there were significant reductions in all pain variables compared to baseline. At the first follow-up, significant group differences were registered for pain on motion and pain on exertion in favour to the real acupuncture group. These differences in pain intensity between the groups were no longer significant at the 2 months and 12 months follow-ups.

Conclusion: The results suggest that, in the treatment of chronic epicondylitis, the selection of so-called real acupuncture points gives better results than invasive sham acupuncture at early follow-up. This additional effect can be interpreted as a specific effect of real acupuncture.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Tennis Elbow / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome