Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Lateral Elbow Pain: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Gadau M, Yeung W, Liu H, Zaslawski C, Tan Y, Wang F, Bangrazi S, Chung K, Bian Z, Zhang S.

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine2014 April 12, 14(136);

A common elbow injury may respond well to acupuncture. A recent review concluded that acupuncture can effectively relieve a condition known as tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, for up to six months.

The review, performed by Gadau et al. (2014), examined 19 studies that looked at how well acupuncture and moxibustion—the burning of a Chinese herb calledAi Ye, or mugwort, over an acupuncture point or channel—treat tennis elbow. Some of the studies compared acupuncture to sham (fake) acupuncture or to conventional therapies like corticosteroid injection or taking oral medications. Others looked at whether using acupuncture and moxibustion together provided better results than acupuncture alone. Trials frequently used acupuncture points LI-4, LI-10, and LI-11, plus locally tender points near the elbow.

In the trials reviewed (of moderate quality), acupuncture significantly decreased lateral elbow pain and improved range of motion in comparison to sham acupuncture. Trials comparing acupuncture to conventional therapies showed no significant difference between treatment groups. Acupuncture and moxibustion combined treated tennis elbow more effectively than acupuncture alone. However authors caution that trials where acupuncture and moxibustion were combined were of low quality, and further research is warranted before a conclusion may be drawn.

Authors write, “Acupuncture may be effective in the relief of lateral elbow pain up to a period of six months. […]Future clinical trials with rigorous design should be conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of acupuncture and moxibustion for lateral elbow pain.”


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