It´s not just tennis players that can develop tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis or lateral epicondylalgia.
The injury is caused when the muscles and tendons in your forearm are strained due to a repetitive or strenuous activity. As well as tennis and other racquet sports like badminton and squash, it is associated with throwing sports such as javelin and discus, and also rowing.
Acupuncture is one method commonly used to help treat lateral epicondylitis, providing short-term pain relief. But which is best – manual or laser acupuncture?
Researchers from China Medical University and Da-Chien General Hospital in Taiwan recently compared the analgesic effect of both methods by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies published in the Medline, PubMed and CINAHL databases from January 1980 to December 2013.
Laser therapy applied to the acupuncture point is sometimes preferred over manual acupuncture because it is painless, aseptic, safe, dosage adjustable and user friendly. But it may not be the most effective option for treating tennis elbow.
The study indicates that there is a substantial difference in treatment effect, with manual acupuncture applied to lateral epicondylitis producing stronger evidence of pain relief than laser acupuncture does.
Using the Philadelphia Panel Classification System, it was found that:
• The short-term effect of manual acupuncture on the relief of pain caused by lateral epicondylitis is Level B
• The long-term effect of manual acupuncture of the relief of pain caused by lateral epicondylitis is Level C+
• The analgesic effect of laser acupuncture in treating lateral epicondylitis is Level D
• The analgesic effect of manual acupuncture on the treatment of lateral epicondylitis is Level B.
In a paper published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, the researchers concluded that manual acupuncture immediately relieves the pain of lateral epicondylitis, although its long-term analgesic effect is unremarkable. Manual acupuncture produced stronger evidence of an analgesic effect than laser acupuncture did, and further study on the analgesic effect of laser acupuncture is required, they said.