Treating Your Tendons

A new treatment is available for tendon injury.

By Dr. Ted Swing

Trauma, repetitive motion and overuse of various joints can result in injuries to the tendons — tissues that connect muscles and bones in the joints. These injuries are known by a variety of names, for example: swimmer’s shoulder, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, jumper’s knee, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. Without treatment, such tendonopathies can produce chronic pain and impaired functioning due to chronic degeneration of the tendon tissue. Tendon injuries are often treated with medications and conservative care, such as rest, ice, physical therapy or cortisone injections. For some patients, such treatments do not resolve the tendon injury and they remain in chronic pain.

A new procedure for treating tendonopathies was recently developed by Tenex Health. This procedure, known as the FAST technique (FAST stands for Fasciotomy and Surgical Tenotomy), uses ultrasonic energy to remove the damaged tendon tissue while leaving healthy tissues intact. Doctors found that when using ultrasonic energy to remove tissue, healthy living tissue was affected by different frequencies than diseased scar tissue. This means that the right type of ultrasound can be used to safely remove damaged tissues that impair movement and cause pain. Furthermore, this ultrasound treatment has the advantage that it is far less invasive than open surgical removal of tendon tissues, meaning it produces less damage to surrounding tissues and patients recover more quickly. These discoveries led to the development of the FAST technique.

The entire FAST technique generally takes less than 15 minutes, with the removal of tissue itself lasting less than a minute. The procedure is completed through a single small incision through which an instrument the size of a toothpick is inserted, before breaking up and removing the scar tissue. The incision does not require stitches or sutures to seal – only a small bandage. After the procedure, patients must restrict their activities for at least two weeks as the tendon heals. So far, over 2000 of these procedures have been performed around the U.S., treating tendonopathies of the elbow, foot, ankle and knee. Developments are already under way to enable the treatment of other tendonopathies with the FAST technique as well.

Though this procedure is new, the early evidence and medical research suggest that many patients experience substantial reductions in pain beginning soon after the procedure, with pain continuing to decrease over the next several weeks. In one study of 35 patients receiving the FAST treatment, patients’ pain (reported from 0 to 10) decreased from an average rating of 7.1 to 1.9 between the pre-procedure assessment and a three month follow-up appointment.

Our partner, Arizona Pain Specialists is excited to have recently begun offering this treatment to our patients. For those patients whose tendon injury has lasted more than three months and has not been resolved by conservative treatments, The  FAST technique may be beneficial. Decisions about pursuing this treatment should be made with your doctor and other health care providers. Additional health information about this procedure can be found at Check with your pain doctor to see if this treatment can work for you!

Ted Swing has more than eight years of research experience and four years of teaching experience in psychology, has published in top psychology and medical journals, and has presented his research at major conferences. He received his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Iowa State University and has been the Research Director at Pain Doctor since May 2012.

FAST is a trademark of Tenex Health Inc. © 2012 Tenex Health Inc. All rights reserved.


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