Medical Moment: Treating aging athletes with Tenex

Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 5:37 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - Health experts list physical activity as one of the best ways to stay healthy as we age.

But for many Americans, injuries and chronic pain may keep them from doing what they love.

Recovery from traditional surgery may take weeks or months, but for some, a device designed to gently treat injured tendons may make the difference.

62-year-old Sherry Bellomo has ridden a bike at home or on the road for as long as she can remember.

“It was very, very, challenging,” Sherry Bellomo recalled. “I rode pretty far and pretty fast. And I just loved everything about it.”

30 or 40-mile rides, often at a 20 mph pace, but three years ago, Bellomo started developing extreme pain in her legs.

“I couldn’t sit on my bike. Couldn’t sit in a car, couldn’t sit on a plane,” Bellomo said.

When medications didn’t work, doctors performed surgery to make room for an impinged nerve. Then, another surgery to fix a torn hamstring. But the pain came back.

Bellomo was referred to orthopedic specialist, Dr. Brian Shiple, at The Center for Sports Medicine Wellness. He discovered scar tissue had trapped the nerve near her hamstring.

“That caused tethering and stretching of the nerve and caused leg pain much like you would get with a sciatica from your back,” Dr. Shiple said.

Dr. Shiple recommended a procedure called Tenex. Using ultrasound guidance, doctors direct a needle through a tiny incision into the scarred area. The procedure breaks up and removes damaged tissue on the tendons, leaving behind only healthy tissue.

It is less invasive than surgery and can be performed in the outpatient department by a radiologist.

In most cases, only one treatment is needed to relieve pain.

Side effects of the procedure may include pain at the incision site, soreness, or some swelling for a few days after the procedure. Only 0.001% of people who got the procedure have reported complications. Most patients recover in four to six weeks, but it may take up to 12 weeks to get back to strenuous activities or sports. Physical therapy may be recommended to improve the success of the procedure. Most patients can use over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce the pain after the procedure.

“We inject fluid and use lots of hydrostatic pressure coming out of the needle to separate the scar tissue from the nerve,” Dr. Shiple said.

Doctors use the minimally invasive procedure to treat other painful conditions like tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendinitis.

For Bellomo, the pain went away shortly after the procedure. After six weeks of recovery time, she’s feeling fit, and hoping to stay that way.

“I feel like I have my life back,” Bellamo said.

Researchers at the Center for Research on Inflammatory Diseases (CRID), part of the University of São Paulo located in Brazil, made a new discovery that could open doors to breakthrough treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

They revealed that T-lymphocytes work their way into bone tissue, increasing the number of cells known as osteoclasts that break down the matrix in joints. These bone matrices are a crucial part of the bone repair and maintenance process, so reducing them can cause serious joint issues.

“This is an important finding since pain and inflammation have been treated with medications, but the bone damage that is a debilitating complication of this disease is practically irreversible,” says Fernando de Queiroz Cunha, head investigator at CRID.

The study focused on how smoking worsened inflammation causing a path to bone damage to be discovered.