Topical nitric oxide application in the treatment of chronic extensor tendinosis at the elbow: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial

Am J Sports Med. 2003 Nov-Dec;31(6):915-20. doi: 10.1177/03635465030310062901.


Background: Extensor tendinosis ("tennis elbow") is a degenerative overuse tendinopathy of the wrist extensors at their attachment to the lateral humeral epicondyle. No treatment has been universally successful. Topical application of nitric oxide has been used effectively to treat fractures and cutaneous wounds in animal models, presumably by stimulation of collagen synthesis in fibroblasts.

Purpose: To determine whether topical nitric oxide can improve outcome of patients with extensor tendinosis.

Study design: Prospective, randomized, double-blinded clinical trial.

Methods: Eighty-six patients with extensor tendinosis were randomized into two equal groups; both were instructed to perform a standard tendon rehabilitation program. One group received an active glyceryl trinitrate transdermal patch, and the other group received a placebo patch.

Results: Patients in the glyceryl trinitrate group had significantly reduced elbow pain with activity at 2 weeks, reduced epicondylar tenderness at 6 and 12 weeks, and an increase in wrist extensor mean peak force and total work at 24 weeks. At 6 months, 81% of treated patients were asymptomatic during activities of daily living, compared with 60% of patients who had tendon rehabilitation alone.

Conclusions: Application of topical nitric oxide improved early pain with activity, late functional measures, and outcomes of patients with extensor tendinosis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Historical Article
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • History, 18th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitroglycerin / administration & dosage
  • Nitroglycerin / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Tennis Elbow / drug therapy*
  • Tennis Elbow / rehabilitation
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Nitroglycerin