Chronic lateral epicondylitis: challenges and solutions

Open Access J Sports Med. 2018 Oct 30:9:243-251. doi: 10.2147/OAJSM.S160974. eCollection 2018.


Lateral epicondylitis (LE) is a significant source of pain and dysfunction resulting from repetitive gripping or wrist extension, radial deviation, and/or forearm supination. Although most cases are self-limiting over several years, controversy exists regarding the best treatment strategy for chronic LE. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy (PT), shockwave therapy, and injections with corticosteroids or biologics are all conservative treatment options for LE. For refractory cases, surgical options include open, arthroscopic, and percutaneous techniques. In this review, the current evidence behind these treatment strategies is presented. The data demonstrate that NSAIDs, PT, bracing, and shockwave therapy provide limited benefit for treating LE. Biologics such as platelet-rich plasma and autologous whole-blood injections may be superior to steroid injections in the long-term management of LE. Although the initial results are promising, larger comparative studies on stem cell injections are needed. For refractory LE, open, arthroscopic, and percutaneous techniques are all highly effective, with no method seemingly superior over another. Arthroscopic and percutaneous approaches may result in faster recovery and earlier return to work.

Keywords: biologics; injection; lateral epicondylitis; platelet-rich plasma; shockwave; stem cells; surgery; tennis elbow.

Publication types

  • Review