Eccentric strengthening for chronic lateral epicondylosis: a prospective randomized study

Sports Health. 2011 Nov;3(6):500-3. doi: 10.1177/1941738111409690.


Background: Effective treatments for chronic lateral epicondylosis have not been studied adequately. Eccentric overload exercises have been used with success for other chronic tendinopathy, mainly Achilles and patellar.

Hypothesis/purpose: To compare a wrist extensor eccentric strengthening exercise program with a wrist extensor stretching/modality program for the treatment of chronic lateral epicondylosis. The authors hypothesized that the eccentric strengthening program would produce more favorable results than a stretching/modality program.

Study design: Prospective randomized controlled trial.

Methods: Twenty-eight adults with lateral epicondylosis of greater than 4 weeks' duration were randomized to an eccentric strengthening group or a stretching group. Exercises were taught by a physical therapist, and participants performed most of the exercises on their own at home. Pain scores with visual analog scale from 0 to 100 were obtained at baseline and then at 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20 weeks after the start of the exercise program.

Results: Both groups improved their pain scores from baseline to the 4-week time point, followed by nonsignificant further decreases in pain scores thereafter. No statistically significant differences were found between the eccentric strengthening group and stretching groups at any follow-up time point.

Conclusions: Despite previous reports documenting favorable results with eccentric exercises for other tendinopathy, the authors were unable to show any statistical advantage to eccentric exercises for lateral epicondylosis during these periods compared with local modalities and stretching exercises.

Keywords: eccentric exercise; overuse injury; tendinopathy; tennis elbow.