If that repeated, twisting arm motion becomes painful, the pain might be tennis elbow, even in non-tennis players. Rest is often the first step to healing, and there may be a new way to decrease the pain.
Chronic tennis elbow pain was improved through plasma enriched platelet (PRP) therapy up to six months after treatment, according to a study presented at a conference.
Platelets, or sticky substances found naturally in the blood stream, can release healing proteins when activated and ease inflammation and pain, though the findings have not yet been peer-reviewed.
With tennis elbow, pain and tenderness radiate along the outside of the elbow to the forearm when the wrist is extended, or when twisting or grasping. The condition is also called lateral epicondylar tendinopathy.
Researchers led by Allan Mishra, PhD, from the Menlo Medical Clinic at Stanford Hospital and Clinics in California, assessed how well platelet treatments can alleviate pain from tennis elbow.
During PRP therapy, blood cells are enriched with platelets, which helps form clots to stop bleeding, and then inserted into the body. The treatment can cost anywhere between $450 and $2,000 and has been used to ease pain of torn muscles, tendons and ligaments in athletes.
The study included 230 patients who had chronic tennis elbow for at least three months and a pain score of at least 50 out of 100 points.
About half the patients received the platelet injections through the skin along the tendons that stretch the arm at the elbow. The rest of the patients were treated without the platelets.
The platelet group reported more than 55 percent improvement in their pain scores compared to a little more than 47 percent in the other group after the first 12 weeks, according to researchers.
More than 37 percent of the platelet group and 48 percent of the non-platelet group still reported significant tenderness in their elbows.
Researchers followed patients up to six months. At that time, 29 percent of the platelet group and 54 percent of the non-platelet group still reported tenderness.
Patients who received the platelets reported about 72 percent improvement in their pain scores compared to about 56 percent in the other group at six months.
"Treatment of chronic tennis elbow with platelet-rich plasma is safe and results in clinically meaningful improvements in pain scores and local tenderness compared to an active control group," researchers wrote in their report.
The study was presented today in Chicago at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons' 2013 annual meeting. The study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.