Radial or Focal Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy in Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy: A Real-Life Retrospective Study

Pellegrino R, Di Iorio A, Filoni S, Mondardini P, Paolucci T, Sparvieri E, Tarantino D, Moretti A, Iolascon G.
Radial or Focal Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy in Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy: A Real-Life Retrospective Study.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2023; 20(5):4371. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20054371


Lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET) is characterized by pain, poor muscle strength of the wrist ex-tensors, and disability. Among the conservative rehabilitative approaches, focal as well as radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), are considered effective in LET management. The objective of this study was to compare the safety and effectiveness of focal (fESWT) and radial (rESWT) in terms of LET symptoms and the strength of wrist extensors, taking into account potential gender differences. This is a retrospective longitudinal cohort study of patients with LET treated with ESWT that had received a clinical and functional evaluation, including visuo-analogic scale (VAS), muscle strength using an electronic dynamometer during Cozen’s test, and the patient-rated tennis elbow evaluation (PRTEE) questionnaire. Follow-ups were carried out weekly in four visits after enrollment, and at 8 and 12 weeks. During the follow-ups, the VAS score decreased in both treatments, even if patients receiving fESWT reported early pain relief compared to those treated with rESWT (time for treatment p-value < 0.001). Additionally, peak muscle strength increased independently of the device used, and again more rapidly in the fESWT group (time for treatment p-value < 0.001). In the stratified analysis for sex and for the type of ESWT, rESWT appears to be less effective in female participants in terms of mean muscle strength and PRTEE scores, without differences according to the type of device used. The rESWT group reported a higher rate of minor adverse events (i.e., discomfort, p = 0.03) compared to fESWT. Our data suggest that both fESWT and rESWT might be effective in improving LET symptoms, even if the higher rate of painful procedures were reported in patients treated with rESWT.

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