Background: Lateral epicondylitis (i.e., tennis elbow) is a condition caused by overuse of the arm, which can result in elbow pain. Recent evidence has shown wrist joint splinting as an effective intervention for people with lateral epicondylitis.
Aim: The purpose of this study was to compare the effect of a 3 week wrist joint splinting and physical therapy intervention versus a standard physical therapy intervention on pain, wrist range of motion (ROM), and grip strength in people with lateral epicondylitis.
Design: Randomized clinical trial.
Setting: University hospital outpatient clinics.
Population: Forty participants diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis.
Methods: The participants were randomized into 2 groups. The standard care group followed a treatment program consisting of stretching exercises for the wrist extensors, ultrasonic therapy, and deep friction massage on the proximal attachment of the wrist extensor muscles. The intervention group followed a standard wrist joint splinting program in addition to the physical therapy program that the standard care group received. Participants in both groups received treatment 3 times per week for 3 weeks. The outcome measures were pain intensity, wrist extension ROM, wrist flexion ROM, and grip strength. Each outcome measure was assessed at baseline and after completion of the intervention.
Results: There were no significant between-group differences at baseline. After the treatment period, the intervention group showed statistically significant improvement in pain intensity. Other outcomes also improved including wrist flexion ROM, wrist extension ROM, and grip strength in comparison to the standard care group.
Conclusions: Using wrist joint splinting in addition to physical therapy for a short duration is effective for improving pain intensity. The evidence from this study indicates that wrist joint splinting and physical therapy may also be effective for improving wrist ROM and grip strength in the treatment of patients with lateral epicondylitis, although more research is need in this area.
Clinical rehabilitation impact: Wrist joint splinting is an effective intervention that can be applied in clinical rehabilitation practices for people with lateral epicondylitis.