A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Tenex: A treatment for chronic tendon pain, without surgery

If you are living with tendonitis or chronic tendon pain, an orthopedic minimally-invasive procedure may give back your quality of life. The procedure is most effective on tendons in the elbow, shoulder, knee and ankle.

Tendons are bands of tissue around your joints that connect muscle to bone

Tendons allow you to bend, walk and move parts of your body. Healthy tendons allow you to move easily and smoothly, but damaged tendons make movements painful or restricted. Left untreated, the pain and restriction worsen over time.

Tendon pain is caused when an injured tendon develops scar tissue. Scar tissue typically forms from continued trauma or the overuse and repetition of joints and muscles. This causes small tears that develop more scar tissue as the tendons heal over and over.

Tenex procedure - image

Tenex is a minimally-invasive procedure that helps patients who are suffering from chronic tendon pain by non-surgically removing damaged scar tissue on the tendons.

A non-surgical procedure exists to help patients living with chronic pain

Tenex is a minimally-invasive procedure that helps patients who are suffering from chronic tendon pain by non-surgically removing damaged scar tissue on the tendons.

“Anyone with ongoing tendon pain may qualify for this procedure,” said Dr. Adam Atkins, sports medicine physician with Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire.

Tenex is commonly used for tendon pain cases like tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and patellar tendonitis.

Ultrasound imaging is used before the procedure to visualize the affected area. During the procedure, the physician uses the ultrasound to get a continuous view of the damaged tendon. The provider numbs the skin around the affected tendon and will make a tiny, three millimeter incision.

A small probe is inserted and the needle-like tip of the probe oscillates back and forth rapidly, causing the damaged tissue to break down, while healthy tissue remains intact. As the damaged tissue breaks down, the probe works to remove it from your body until all damaged tissue has been removed.

“Removing the damaged tissue allows the tendon to properly heal,” said Dr. Atkins. “It helps relieve pain, swelling and inflammation from tendonitis.”

Conservative treatments are tried first

“Not everyone with a painful tendon condition may qualify,” Dr. Atkins said. “You often have to do other treatments or applications first, but for chronic conditions, this is something that may be an option.”

Traditional treatment methods are tried first in cases of ongoing tendon pain, like physical therapy, injections or medication. But, if those methods are unsuccessful, Tenex may be the next step.

“For example, if you develop tennis elbow, we’ll start with stretching, a tennis elbow strap and you may be advised to take anti-inflammatory medications,” he said. “If you aren’t better within two months, we may try physical therapy. If pain persists at six months, we may look into cortisone shots. If you are still not better at nine months, we will look into this procedure.”

Fast recovery time means getting back to life more quickly

The Tenex procedure has several advantages compared to traditional treatment modalities for tendon pain. The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting under minimal sedation. Only one procedure is needed to remove the scar tissue and patients will soon be able to resume normal activities, pain-free.

“There is a six-week recovery period of no lifting more than five pounds. Patients will also have to follow three days of minimal activity and should wait two weeks before stretching the treated area,” Dr. Atkins said. “That allows your body to clean up the area the Tenex procedure had debrided.”

If you have chronic tendon pain or questions about whether Tenex is an option for you, talk to your doctor.

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  1. Sep 17, 2021
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