A systematic review of the effectiveness of manipulative therapy in treating lateral epicondylalgia

J Man Manip Ther. 2008;16(4):225-37. doi: 10.1179/106698108790818288.


Lateral epicondylalgia is a commonly encountered musculoskeletal complaint. Currently, there is no agreement regarding the exact underlying pathoanatomical cause or the most effective management strategy. Various forms of joint manipulation have been recommended as treatment. The purpose of this study was to systematically review available literature regarding the effectiveness of manipulation in treating lateral epicondylalgia. A comprehensive search of Medline, CINAHL, Health Source, SPORTDiscus, and the Physiotherapy Evidence Database ending in November 2007 was conducted. Thirteen studies, both randomized and non-randomized clinical trials, met inclusion criteria. Articles were assessed for quality by one reviewer using the 10-point PEDro scale. Quality scores ranged from 1-8 with a mean score of 5.15 +/- 1.85. This score represented fair quality overall; however, trends indicated the presence of consistent methodological flaws. Specifically, no study achieved successful blinding of the patient or treating therapist, and less than 50% used a blinded outcome assessor. Additionally, studies varied significantly in terms of outcome measures, follow-up, and comparison treatments, thus making comparing results across studies difficult. Results of this review support the use of Mulligan's mobilization with movement in providing immediate, short-, and long-term benefits. In addition, positive results were demonstrated with manipulative therapy directed at the cervical spine, although data regarding long-term effects were limited. Currently, limited evidence exists to support a synthesis of any particular technique whether directed at the elbow or cervical spine. Overall, this review identified the need for further high-quality studies using larger sample sizes, valid functional outcome measures, and longer follow-up periods.

Keywords: Joint Manipulation; Lateral Epicondylalgia; Systematic Review; Tennis Elbow.