Texas Medical Center NEWS Vol. 23, No. 17

Nonsurgical Treatment Alternative for Tennis Elbow

Baylor College of Medicine

A new nonsurgical procedure gives tennis elbow the "back hand."

"Instead of incising the inflamed tendon, we use high-frequency shock waves to decrease pain," said Dr. Evan D. Collins, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

Tennis elbow is a common condition that causes pain at the outside bony area, or epicondyle, of the elbow. It is referred to as tennis elbow because the back-hand swing in tennis is a common activity that can cause the problem. However, the condition is most often the result of repetitive pushing, pulling and twisting in activities such as gardening, lifting heavy luggage, painting with a brush or roller, or using various hand tools continuously. Current treatments include ice, stretching, wearing a brace, cortisone shots, anti-inflammatory medications and surgery.

"One of the difficulties of treating tennis elbow is that patients are always using their arms," Dr. Collins said. "You can get on crutches and stay off your foot, but you can't stop using your arms."

Baylor's Department of Orthopedics is one of four sites conducting a study of the shock wave therapy device, known as the Ossatron shock wave treatment.

The randomized study is in the final phase and participants are still being recruited. Once it is determined they have tennis elbow, participants will be placed in a placebo group or treatment group. Although participants have a 50 percent chance of receiving the treatment, those who are not initially placed in the study group will be offered the treatment later.

Unlike surgery, which has a recovery period of three to six months, there is none for the Ossatron shock wave treatment. The procedure takes about 15 minutes and is performed under regional anesthesia, which numbs the arm. Patients might experience soreness, which can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. Patients can quickly return to normal daily routines.

Dr. David Hildreth, a clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor, is a collaborator in the study.