New, interesting treatment for tennis elbow

July 14, 2009 8:43:13 PM PDT
A new approach to treating tennis elbow and similar injuries is generating interest in our area. Chronic tendon injuries come in many forms - from the elbow, to the foot. They've been difficult to treat in the past. Now a local sports doctor says he's having success with a surprisingly simple method.

It's an injury commonly seen on the tennis court. That's how Jane Niehaus got her tennis elbow. Although, many non-players also suffer from the condition.

Jane tried cortisone shots and acupuncture, but it didn't help. So, she went to sports medicine specialist Dr. John McShane. He offers a treatment he created, called "percutaneous needling."

Tennis elbow is commonly called "tendinitis," which means "inflammation of the tendon." But Dr. McShane says there's no inflammation.

Dr. McShane tells us, "These are tendons that have been damaged. They have degeneration, or breaking down of the tendon. If you treat it like it's inflamed, it won't get better."

That's why he says anti-inflammatory medications have little effect. He says when tendon fibers get damaged, they often become surrounded by scar tissue. To solve that, Dr. McShane breaks down the scarring.

First he numbs Jane's arm. Then using a using a needle guided by ultrasound he untangles the muscle and tendon fibers. It takes about 20 minutes and restarts the body's healing process.

"The body brings together all its forces to come in and want to heal this tendon," says Dr. McShane.

Intensive physical therapy starts the day after the procedure to prevent the fibers from tangling up again.

Three months after Patrick Hannigan had the procedure and physical therapy he's now pain-free.

Hannigan tells Action News, "I keep pinching myself, saying, "Okay, when am I going to start getting this pain back again." But it's been great."

Dr. McShane says needling for the elbow is successful about 90-percent of the time and he's getting similar success rates for other conditions like plantar fasciitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

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