Cortisone injections which offer short term relief for painful tendon problems, such as tennis elbow, can actually prolong the condition, a University of Queensland study has shown.
According to Professor of Sports Physiotherapy with UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Bill Vicenzino, the study showed doctors should be advising patients there were more effective treatments available.
“There is a tendency for the majority of those following a wait-and-see policy to get better at six to 12 months, but this is not the case with steroid injection – they tend to lag behind these time frames significantly,” Professor Vicenzino said.
“Doctors should indicate that while these injections produce rapid improvements they are short-lived in the majority of patients with a high risk of recurrence of the condition and long-term poor outcomes compared to adopting a wait-and-see policy.”
Professor Vicenzino said many new injections had not been studied and required further in-depth investigations, as did the benefits of combining injections and physiotherapy.
“More work is needed before we can be confident in strongly recommending a treatment,” he said.
“There is solid evidence that whatever passive treatment is used (such as injections, gene therapy, laser, mobilisation with movements, etc.) it is likely to fail in the long term if exercise is not part of the management plan.”