New Treatment May Ace Tennis Elbow
Early Study Shows Less Pain With New Treatment for Severe Tennis Elbow
Stanford University scientists are serving up a new fix for tennis
The experimental procedure takes about half an hour and doesn't require
surgery. Instead, a patient's own platelets are injected into the affected arm
to encourage healing.
Patients who received the treatment in the Stanford study reported a drop in
pain at four weeks to about half of what it was before treatment. By around two
years after treatment, the patients said they had 93% less pain.
Tennis elbow is a painful condition caused by overuse of arm and forearm
muscles. It doesn't necessarily involve tennis; anyone who overuses the arm or
forearm can get tennis elbow.
Allan Mishra, MD, and Terri Pavelko, PAC, PT, describe their new treatment
in The American Journal of Sports Medicine's November edition.
Mishra and Pavelko tested the treatment on 15 patients with long-lasting
Here's a quick look at the patients before treatment:
- Average age: 48
- Average duration of tennis elbow: 15 months
- Average elbow pain rating: 80 out of 100 points
The patients had already tried physical therapy, with no success, and were
considering surgery for their condition.
Instead, while lying down, the patients gave about a quarter cup of blood
from their healthy arm.
Mishra's team then culled platelets from each patient's blood, concentrated
those platelets, and injected the mixture into the patient's affected
The procedure took about 30 minutes.
After lying down for 15 more minutes, without moving their arms, the
patients went home. They were told to take it easy with their arm for a
For comparison, the researchers gave a painkilling shot -- but no platelets
-- to the affected arm of five other people with severe, long-lasting tennis
A day after getting their shots, all patients started a stretching program,
followed by a strengthening program two weeks later.
The patients were seen four weeks, eight weeks, six months, and about two
years after getting the platelets or painkillers.
Average pain ratings plummeted for the platelet group, dropping to almost
half what it was before treatment by four weeks. And their improvement
The platelet group reported 60% less pain by eight weeks; 81% less pain by
six months; and 93% less pain about two years after treatment.
More than nine in 10 said they were completely satisfied with their
treatment at the two-year mark.
In contrast, average pain ratings for the painkiller group dipped 16% by
By eight weeks, three of the five painkiller patients had sought other
treatment or quit the study, ruling out further follow-ups.
The researchers note no side effects in any of the patients.
They're not exactly sure how the platelets help tennis elbow. But they say
proteins called growth factors in the platelets may be involved.
A larger study "should help better evaluate" the new treatment,
Mishra and Pavelko write.