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Botox Injections May Relieve Tennis Elbow Pain

But some patients suffered side effects, including reduced strength after shots, study finds

MONDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Botulinum toxin, which smoothes facial wrinkles through injections of the drug Botox, can also help people who suffer from "tennis elbow," a new study finds.

But the researchers warn that it must be injected carefully, and there's a potentially nettlesome side effect, according to the report published online April 26 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Researchers at the Imam Khomeini Hospital Complex at Tehran University in Iran gave botulinum toxin injections to 48 patients with tennis elbow who hadn't been helped by previous treatments. Tennis elbow, which causes pain and inflammation in the upper arm near the elbow, affects some people who repeatedly move their wrists or forearms while taking part in activities like tennis.

The researchers customized the injection sites based on the length of each patient's forearm instead of giving injections at the same location in each person. Giving the injection at the same location can lead to insufficient paralysis, Dr. S.M. Javad Mortazavi and colleagues explained.

The treatment reduced pain but also reduced strength levels in the patients, the study authors found. They also pointed out that the treatment isn't appropriate for patients who need to extend their fingers, and added that more research is needed to figure out whether the treatment relieves pain after four months.

In an accompanying commentary, Dr. Rachelle Buchbinder, of Monash University in Australia, wrote that tennis elbow can cause disability and require workers to take sick leave. There's still much that's not known about botulinum toxin as a treatment for the condition, Buchbinder added, and patients may be unhappy if they suffer from a side effect: the partial loss of the ability to move their third and fourth fingers.

More information

For more about tennis elbow, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association Journal, news release, April 26, 2010

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