Deep Friction Massage Versus Steroid Injection in the Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis

Hand (N Y). 2018 Jan;13(1):56-59. doi: 10.1177/1558944717692088. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


Background: The aim of the study was to determine the efficacy of deep friction massage in the treatment of lateral epicondylitis by comparing outcomes with a control group treated with splinting and therapy and with an experimental group receiving a local steroid injection.

Methods: A randomized clinical trial was conducted to compare outcomes after recruitment of consecutive patients presenting with lateral epicondylitis. Patients were randomized to receive one of 3 treatments: group 1: splinting and stretching, group 2: a cortisone injection, or group 3: a lidocaine injection with deep friction massage. Pretreatment and posttreatment parameters of visual analog scale (VAS) pain ratings, Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) scores, and grip strength were measured.

Results: Outcomes were measured at early follow-up (6-12 weeks) and at 6-month follow-up. There was a significant improvement in VAS pain score in all treatment groups at early follow-up. DASH score and grip strength improved in the cortisone injection group and the deep friction massage group at early follow-up; these parameters did not improve in the splinting and stretching group. At 6-month follow-up, only patients in the deep friction massage group demonstrated a significant improvement in all outcome measures, including VAS pain score, DASH score, and grip strength.

Conclusions: Deep friction massage is an effective treatment for lateral epicondylitis and can be used in patients who have failed other nonoperative treatments, including cortisone injection.

Keywords: injection; lateral epicondylitis; nonoperative; steroid; tennis elbow.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Cortisone / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Friction*
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises
  • Splints
  • Tennis Elbow / therapy*
  • Visual Analog Scale


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Lidocaine
  • Cortisone