Objective: To assess the efficacy of radiotherapy in alleviating pain at rest and on exercise in tennis elbow (humeral epicondylitis).
Patients and methods: 45 elbow joints in 41 patients were radiated with a telecobalt unit in six sessions at a dose of 1.0 Gy each spread over 3 weeks. Indication for this treatment was pain in the elbow joint at rest, on pressure and on exercise. The patients were re-assessed after a mean follow-up period of 7.5 weeks. They were graded into one of five groups on the basis of their own assessment. Pain on exercise was determined by the Thompson hand-grip, chair test, forced extension and middle-finger stretch test.
Results: Satisfactory analgesia was achieved in 31 of 45 elbow joints (68.9%). About 50% of patients still had objectifiable pain on exercise.
Conclusions: Radiotherapy is a highly efficacious means of pain alleviation in tennis elbow, but the results are better for pain at rest than on exercise. The Thompson hand-grip and chair test, positive in more than 90% of patients, proved to be reliable criteria to assess the indications for radiotherapy and its results.