To complement the Research Reports in the March 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: When added to blocking therapy, electroacupuncture and massage can delay the recurrence of external humeral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow.

Patients with external humeral epicondylitis experienced benefits after receiving electroacupuncture, massage and blocking therapy.

The study, “Therapeutic effect of electroacupuncture, massage and blocking therapy on external humeral epicondylitis,” involved 86 patients with elbow pain.

What is External Humeral Epicondylitis?

The study’s authors explained, “External humeral epicondylitis, known as tennis elbow, is caused by chronic strain or injury of the elbow joint, especially the common extensor tendon of the lateral epicondyle of the humerus.” The purpose of this study was to compare two therapeutic methods for treating external humeral epicondylitis: a combination of electroacupuncture, massage and blocking therapy; and blocking therapy alone.

The 86 participants were randomly distributed into two groups, each including 43 subjects. Treatment group participants received electroacupuncture, massage and blocking therapy, and the control group received blocking therapy only. Of the 86 participants, 80 completed the study, leaving 40 participants in each group.

What is the treatment?

An electroacupuncture treatment course included electroacupuncture therapy conducted once a day for 10 days. Ten massage treatments were given, with each participant receiving massage once a day. After a week-long interval, a course of blocking treatment was conducted, which included therapy once a week for two weeks, totaling two treatments, and no more than three treatments.

The visual analog scale (VAS), grip strength index (GSI) score, and Mayo Elbow Performance Score (MEPS) before treatment were used to evaluate the therapeutic effects. Evaluations were conducted before treatment and zero, six, 12 and 24 months after treatment in order to observe the total effective rate of treatment. The Nimodipine method was used to measure the effect on pain, tenderness and dysfunction of the elbow joint.

The authors said, “The total effective rates of the treatment and control groups at 0, 6, 12, and 24 months after treatment were 87.5 percent and 85.0 percent; 85.0 percent and 82.5 percent; 80.0 percent and 12.5 percent; and 2.5 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively.” The control group had greater joint function, better therapeutic effect and lower pain intensity than those in the treatment group. This indicates a high recurrence rate at 12 months after the treatment. Between the two groups, no differences were found in VAS, GSI, or MEPS at zero, six and 24 months after treatment.

The results

Both methods were found effective for external humeral epicondylitis. The effects in both groups remained sustained after six months of treatment, but the control group experienced a severe relapse in month 12, and both groups relapsed after 24 months. The authors said, “The effect of electroacupuncture, massage and blocking therapy used in combination lasted longer, delaying the recurrence of the disease.”

Authors: Xinjian Li, Kun Zhou, Enming Zhang, Zhenxi Qi, Weiqing Sun, Liangfu Xu, Jianfeng Xu, Youzhi Cai and Ronghui Wang

Sources: Orthopedic Institute, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou, China; Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology, Beijing Sport University Hospital, Beijing, China; Department of Internal Medicine, Zhaoxian; People’s Hospital, Zhaoxian, China; and Department of Administration, Sports Bureau of Fujian Province, Fuzhou, China. Originally published in 2014 in Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.