The Effect of Scapular Muscle Strengthening on Functional Recovery in Patients With Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

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Context: There is a lack of consensus on the best management approach for lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET). Recently, scapular stabilizer strength impairments have been found in individuals with LET. Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of local therapy (LT) treatment to LT treatment plus a scapular muscle-strengthening (LT + SMS) program in patients diagnosed with LET. Design: Prospective randomized clinical trial. Setting: Multisite outpatient physical therapy. Patients: Thirty-two individuals with LET who met the criteria were randomized to LT or LT + SMS. Interventions: Both groups received education, a nonarticulating forearm orthosis, therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and thermal modalities as needed. Additionally, the LT + SMS group received SMS exercises. Main Outcome Measure: The primary outcome measure was the patient-rated tennis elbow evaluation; secondary outcomes included global rating of change (GROC), grip strength, and periscapular muscle strength. Outcomes were reassessed at discharge, 6, and 12 months from discharge. Linear mixed-effect models were used to analyze the differences between groups over time for each outcome measure. Results: The average duration of symptoms was 10.2 (16.1) months, and the average total number of visits was 8.0 (2.2) for both groups. There were no significant differences in gender, age, average visits, weight, or height between groups at baseline (P > .05). No statistical between-group differences were found for any of the outcome measures. There were significant within-group improvements in all outcome measures from baseline to all follow-up points (P < .05). Conclusion: The results of this pilot study suggest that both treatment approaches were equally effective in reducing pain, improving function, and increasing grip strength at discharge as well as the 6- and 12-month follow-ups. Our multimodal treatment programs were effective at reducing pain and improving function up to 1 year after treatment in a general population of individuals with LET.

Day and Merriman are with the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, USA. Lucado is with the College of Health Professions, Atlanta, GA, USA. Dale is with the Department of Physical Therapy, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL, USA. Marker is with the Department of Clinical Psychology, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA, USA. Uhl is with the Department of Physical Therapy, College of Allied Health, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.

Day (jday01@udayton.edu) is corresponding author.
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