The efficacy of splinting for lateral epicondylitis: a systematic review

J Hand Ther. 2004 Apr-Jun;17(2):181-99. doi: 10.1197/j.jht.2004.02.007.


To determine the efficacy of using splinting as a treatment for lateral epicondylitis (LE), a systematic review of the literature was conducted on Medline, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), EMBASE, PEDro, and Cochrane databases using pertinent key words and phrases. Hand searches of article references were also used to ensure that as many relevant articles as possible were identified. Searches were limited to articles published in English. Articles that did not involve splinting (or terminology derivative thereof) as treatment intervention for LE were excluded. From 98 potential articles, 58 were considered strong inclusion candidates. These articles were copied and further triaged according to predefined criteria, resulting in 22 articles that were numbered randomly and blinded. Three reviewers appraised these articles, eliminating 11 of the articles because they did not meet essential criteria of randomization, control group, and/or inferential statistical analysis. Using MacDermid quality scores, the 11 remaining articles were rated by three reviewers. Consensus between the three reviewers was achieved for all quality scores for all 11 articles included in the review. Adjusted quality scores ranged from 44.5 to 16.5 with a mean of 26.3 points. For accurate comparison and consistency of terminology, splints described in the included articles were first classified according to the ASHT Splint Classification, expanded and refined version, and next according to their inherent material properties. Six splints in five classification categories were identified. Discussion of the results from the 11 included studies was organized according to splint category and further separated into strength, pain, and load applied sections. This review identified one Sackett level 1b study and ten Sackett level 2b studies that offer early positive, but not conclusive, support for the effectiveness of splinting lateral epicondylitis. None of the reviewed studies received a perfect quality score, and the wide range of quality scores attests to the fact that considerable improvement of future studies is essential.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Splints*
  • Tennis Elbow / therapy*