The immediate sensorimotor effects of elbow orthoses in patients with lateral elbow tendinopathy: a prospective crossover study
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BACKGROUND: Counterforce orthoses are used to manage lateral elbow tendinopathy, and their effectiveness in improving motor function has been documented. Little is known about the impact of bracing on sensory function. The objective of this study was to investigate the immediate effectiveness of 2 counterforce orthoses in improving the sensorimotor abilities of the hand in patients with lateral elbow tendinopathy. METHODS: In this crossover, randomized controlled trial, elbow proprioception, pain severity, pain-free grip strength, and finger dexterity were measured in 50 participants with a diagnosis of lateral elbow tendinopathy. Outcomes were measured in 3 randomized conditions (no brace, forearm band, or elbow sleeve). Data were analyzed using 1-way repeated-measures analysis of variance for each outcome measure. RESULTS: Better scores were observed with the forearm band, as compared with no orthosis, for multiple outcomes including joint position reproduction score at 70° of elbow flexion (P = .006), pain (P < .001), grip strength (P = .01), and dexterity (P < .001). The elbow sleeve yielded better scores than no orthosis for the following outcomes: joint position reproduction score at 110° (P < .001), pain (P < .001), and grip strength (P = .012). No statistically significant difference was found between the orthoses' effects on pain reduction and grip strength (P > .05). The forearm band showed better scores on joint position reproduction at 70° compared with the elbow sleeve (P = .006), whereas the elbow sleeve showed better scores at 110° (P < .001). CONCLUSION: Our results support the mechanisms occurring with the use of either of the described orthotic interventions. Future randomized trials with longer-term outcomes that include sensorimotor mechanisms might enhance our understanding of the comparative effectiveness.
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