Middle and Lower Trapezius Strengthening for the Management of Lateral Epicondylalgia: A Case Report
Background: Addressing weakness of the shoulder region, especially the rotator cuff and scapular musculature, is often suggested clinically for the treatment of individuals with lateral epicondylalgia. However, to our knowledge, the clinical effectiveness of this approach has not been established.
Case description: The patient was a 54-year-old woman with a 5-month history of right lateral elbow pain, whose symptoms were reproduced with clinical tests typically used to diagnose lateral elbow tendinopathy. The patient also demonstrated weakness in her middle and lower trapezius muscles, and the medial border of her scapula, measured with a tape measure, was 11 cm lateral from the spinous processes of the thoracic spine with the patient standing in relaxed stance. Based on improved grip strength and reduced associated elbow pain when tested with the scapula manually corrected in a more adducted position, treatment focused solely on strengthening of the middle and lower trapezius muscles over a 10-week period.
Outcomes: Following the intervention, the patient presented with improved scapular position, with the medial border of the scapula being 9 cm lateral to the midthoracic spine. The patient's middle and lower trapezius strength improved from 3+/5 and 4−/5, respectively, to 5/5, and her grip strength from 26.1 to 42.2 kg. The patient's scores on the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire also improved from 44.2 at the initial evaluation to 0 at the completion of therapy, with the patient being able to perform all of her daily activities in a pain-free manner.
Discussion: The results of this case report suggest that assessment and treatment of scapular musculature warrant consideration in the management of individuals with lateral epicondylalgia.
Level of evidence: Therapy, level 4. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2013;43(11):841–847. Epub 9 September 2013. doi:10.2519/jospt.2013.4659
Bhatt, J.B., R. Glaser, A. Chavez, and E. Yung. "Middle and Lower Trapezius Strengthening for the Management of Lateral Epicondylalgia: A Case Report." Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy 43.11 (2013):841- 847. Epub 9 September 2013.