Effectiveness of different methods of resistance exercises in lateral epicondylosis--a systematic review

J Hand Ther. Jan-Mar 2012;25(1):5-25; quiz 26. doi: 10.1016/j.jht.2011.09.001. Epub 2011 Nov 9.


Study design: Systematic Review.

Introduction: Lateral epicondylosis (LE) is relatively common with an annual incidence in the general population of 1% to 3%. Systematic reviews have identified exercise is effective, but have not established specific exercise parameters.

Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to synthesize the quality and content of clinical research addressing type and dosage of resistance exercises in lateral epicondylosis.

Methods: Computerized bibliographic databases (1990-2010) were searched using relevant keywords; bibliographies of included papers were hand searched. Of 594 screened abstracts, 11 articles (12 studies) met inclusion criteria. Articles were randomly allocated to pairs of reviewers who independently verified data extraction and appraised the full text, using a structured critical appraisal tool with 24 items. Data extraction was limited by a lack of consistent reporting of elements of exercise dosage.

Results: The mean quality rating of the studies was 72%, with 2 papers exceeding 75% quality. Of the 12 studies, 9 addressed the effects of isotonic (eccentric/concentric) exercises, 2 studied the effect of isometric and one studied isokinetic exercises. The exercise programs ranged over a period of 4 to 52 weeks. Exercises were prescribed 1 to 6 times per day, with an average duration of 15 minutes per session, and average of 15 repetitions (range: 3 to 50), with 1 to 4 sets per session.

Conclusion: All the studies reported that resistance exercise resulted in substantial improvement in pain and grip strength; eccentric exercise was most studied. Strengthening using resistance exercises is effective in reducing pain and improving function for lateral epicondylosis but optimal dosing is not defined.

Level of evidence: 2a.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Tennis Elbow / therapy*