Efficacy of Physical Therapy for the Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis: A Meta-Analysis.
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Background Physical therapy for the treatment of lateral epicondylitis (LE) often comprises movement therapies, extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ECSWT), low level laser therapy (LLLT), low frequency electrical stimulation or pulsed electromagnetic fields. Still, only ECSWT and LLLT have been meta-analytically researched. Methods PUBMED, EMBASE and Cochrane database were systematically searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Methodological quality of each study was rated with an adapted version of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) checklist. Pain reduction (the difference between treatment and control groups at the end of trials) and pain relief (the change in pain from baseline to the end of trials) were calculated with mean differences (MD) and 95 %-Confidence intervals (95 % CI). Results One thousand one hundred thirty eight studies were identified. One thousand seventy of those did not meet inclusion criteria. After full articles were retrieved 16 studies met inclusion criteria and 12 studies reported comparable outcome variables. Analyses were conducted for overall pain relief, pain relief during maximum handgrip strength tests, and maximum handgrip strength. There were not enough studies to conduct an analysis of physical function or other outcome variables. Conclusions Differences between treatment and control groups were larger than differences between treatments. Control group gains were 50 to 66 % as high as treatment group gains. Still, only treatment groups with their combination of therapy specific and non-therapy specific factors reliably met criteria for clinical relevance. Results are discussed with respect to stability and their potential meaning for the use of non-therapy specific agents to optimize patients’ gain.