Background: Results of a previous randomized controlled trial have shown comparable effectiveness of a standardized eccentric loading training and of repetitive low-energy shock-wave treatment (SWT) in patients suffering from chronic midportion Achilles tendinopathy. No randomized controlled trials have tested whether a combined approach might lead to even better results.
Purpose: To compare the effectiveness of 2 management strategies--group 1: eccentric loading and group 2: eccentric loading plus repetitive low-energy shock-wave therapy.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.
Methods: Sixty-eight patients with a chronic recalcitrant (>6 months) noninsertional Achilles tendinopathy were enrolled in a randomized controlled study. All patients had received unsuccessful management for >3 months, including at least (1) peritendinous local injections, (2) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and (3) physiotherapy. A computerized random-number generator was used to draw up an allocation schedule. Analysis was on an intention-to-treat basis.
Results: At 4 months from baseline, the VISA-A score increased in both groups, from 50 to 73 points in group 1 (eccentric loading) and from 51 to 87 points in group 2 (eccentric loading plus shock-wave treatment). Pain rating decreased in both groups, from 7 to 4 points in group 1 and from 7 to 2 points in group 2. Nineteen of 34 patients in group 1 (56%) and 28 of 34 patients in group 2 (82%) reported a Likert scale of 1 or 2 points ("completely recovered" or "much improved"). For all outcome measures, groups 1 and 2 differed significantly in favor of the combined approach at the 4-month follow-up. At 1 year from baseline, there was no difference any longer, with 15 failed patients of group 1 opting for having the combined therapy as cross-over and with 6 failed patients of group 2 having undergone surgery.
Conclusion: At 4-month follow-up, eccentric loading alone was less effective when compared with a combination of eccentric loading and repetitive low-energy shock-wave treatment.