Electroacupuncture & Tennis Elbow
Honora Lee Wolfe, Lic. Ac., FNAAOM
Keywords: Chinese medicine, acupuncture-moxibustion, electroacupuncture, tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis
Pain is still, and may always be, the main reason for Westerners to seek treatment with acupuncture, and one of the most commonly seen types of pain is “tennis elbow” or lateral epicondylitis, a.k.a. tenosynovitis of the elbow. This condition is mainly the result of repetitive strain of the elbow joint. In issue #6, 2003 of the Yun Nan Zhong Yi Zhong Yao Za Zhi (Yunnan Journal of Chinese Medicine & Chinese Medicinals), Zhou Ling published an article titled, “The Acupuncture-moxibustion Treatment of 63 Cases of Lateral Epicondylitis of the Elbow.” That article appeared on page 25 of that journal, and a summary is presented below.
There were 21 males and 42 females among the 63 patients enrolled in this study, all of whom suffered from lateral epicondylitis of the elbow. Standard inclusion criteria for this condition were included in the cohort description. The shortest course of disease was five days and the longest was two years. Forty-seven patients had pain in their right elbow, and 16 had pain in their left elbow.
Points chosen for treatment were a shi points, Qu Chi (LI 11), Chi Ze (Lu 5), Wai Guan (TB 5), and He Gu (LI 4). A one inch needle was used at the a shi point(s), and a 1.5 inch needle was used at each of the other points. Perpendicular insertion was used at all points. Then the points were stimulated with a G-6805 electroacupuncture machine with a dense wave-form and the degree of stimulation the patient was able to bear. The needles were retained for 20 minutes. After taking out the needles, warming moxibustion was done over the elbow region with a moxa poll for 10 minutes. One treatment was given per day, and 10 treatsments equaled one course.
Cure was defined as disappearance of the aching and pain with normalization of the movement and use of the joint. Improvement was defined as decrease in the aching and pain with improvement in the function of the elbow joint. No effect was defined as no improvement in any of the symptoms. Based on these criteria, 56 out of 63 patients were cured and seven improved. Therefore, the total effectiveness rate was reported as 100%.
According to Dr. Zhou, this condition is traditionally called elbow impediment in Chinese medicine. It is mostly due to repetitive strain or overuse resulting in taxation detriment of the sinews and vessels in the elbow region along with simultaneous contraction of wind cold. This then results in the channel and vessel qi and blood becoming congealed, stagnant, and not freely flowing. As it is said, “If there is no free flow, there is pain.” Thus the elbow pain. Electroacupuncture is able to course and free the flow of the channels and network vessels. This is combined with warming moxibustion which is able to warm the channels and scatter cold. Therefore, the combination of these two modalities has the effect of quickening the blood, freeing the flow of the network vessels, and stopping pain. Typically, the pain decreases after 2-3 treatments, and most patients are cured or improved after 1-2 courses. During treatment, it is important to rest the affected limb. This shortens the disease course and raises the cure rate.
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