Elbow Pain and Laser Therapy

Epicondilitis is an overuse injury that restricts the active person’s lifestyle. It is one of the most prevalent elbow injuries to occur in clinical medicine and is usually referred to as Tennis or Golfer’s elbow. People also engaged in repetitive motion of the elbow such as using a pneumatic drill, amongst others, are also susceptible to developing this debilitating pathology. Typically, it occurs in the dominant elbow, although it may be bilateral. Diagnosis is best confirmed by the acute tenderness on palpation over the epicondyle.

The elbow is a complex joint that not only flexes and extends, but also rotates. Excessive stress on the forearm musculature results in the tearing of the tendons of both the flexors and/or the extensors at their point of origin, resulting in microtears at the attachment of the tendon to the periosteum (bone). Consequently, pain is accompanied by restricted use of the extremity.

Aside from epicondilitis, there may also be injuries to the forearm muscles, which need to be addressed as well. Early intervention, as in most conditions, will lead to rapid recovery, however, if untreated, epicondylitis can progress to encompass various pathologies including subperiosteal haemorrhage, periosteal inflammation, calcification and even bone spur formation.

Conventional treatment includes a variety of straps and splints, cortisone injections, NSAID’S, analgesics and physiotherapy, including exercises to promote muscle strengthening and when all else fails surgery. As with all invasive procedures, complications can occur; these include infection, nerve damage, loss of ROM (range of motion), scar tissue formation and persistent weakness.

Recent published studies report significant functional gains with acute and chronic cases with treated laser therapy. This technology, working at the molecular level, is safe, effective and without side effects, and is now considered an important option in the treatment of epicondilitis along with many other neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Recent research in the field demonstrates that laser therapy, combined with other reputable rehabilitative measures, has resulted in a significantly reduced recovery time factor, and as such, it seems the logical approach to the treatment of epicondilitis should encompass application of laser treatments.