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Anyone who has had a chronic tendon injury will tell you what a nuisance it was. There's pain, certainly, but what's worse is that these injuries often seem impossible to shift. And the longer an injury lasts, the more likely you are to run into real problems if the excessive scar tissue of the damaged area calcifies.
Until relatively recently, calcification of a tendon (which is seen most commonly in heel spurs and tennis elbow, but can happen in any form of tendon injury) might mean steroid injection, which risk weakening the tendon still further. But now a new treatment, Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy, has arrived in the UK (it has been available in Europe for some time), offering a cure without the trauma ofgoing under the knife.
ESWT is based - of all things - the machines used to disintegrate kidney stones. "Inside the treatment head of the ESWT machine is a perfect hemisphere covered in crystal, " explains Carsten Uth, the only UK-based physiotherapist currently offering the treatment. "These are all activated simultaneously, which creates focussed, very high -pressure sound pulses, that travel into the body." The pulses are strong enough to break down the calcified tissue, and trigger a repair response in the surrounding injury, so that it starts to re-grow.
And while the treatment is not cheap at Â£265 per session, the course of treatment is short (typically three sessions), and the results are apparently startling. "I'd say that I've had a 80-90 per cent success rate with the treatment," says Uth. "I remember one runner in particular who had problems just walking down the road, and had stopped running altogether. Six weeks after his last treatment he was getting back into his running.
Like all treatments, ESWT has its limitations. "It can't be used on juries to the torso," warns Uth. "And it only really works on the more persistent, severe and specific tendon injuries. If you have a more generalised pain, other forms of treatment are probably going to be more effective." ~But, while it's not a cure-all, for runners who fear their injury may never go, ESWT may offer a real alternative to needles, knives and repeated steroid injections.
To find out if ESWT could be used to treat your injury, visit www.physio-chelsea.co.uk or call Carsten Uth on 020 7584 9054. The treatment is not widespread yet, but has previously been offered by the Pinderfields and Pontefract NHS Trust.
The Daily Mail brought an article on the 14th of January 2003 on shock wave treatment. This article can be found on their web site at www.femail.co.uk
A Danish physiotherapist has brought a revolutionary new treatment to the UK, which he claims will cure almost every case of tennis elbow. London-based Carsten Uth uses something called 'Shockwave therapy' to break down scar tissue and calcium formation, the two main causes of pain in many tennis players' elbows.
"I have had people who have been off tennis for years and who now are back playing 100 per cent," says Carsten. "I have even had people flying in from the USA as the treatment is not yet available there."
Carsten's technique involves a Shockwave therapy machine, which uses 'piezo-electric' crystals to send pressure waves through a bag of fluid onto the elbow. Patients feel a short, sharp pain in a very localised area, and sometimes the skin goes red, but there are no lingering effects.
"It applies a very high energy to the area of injury," says Carsten. "The only other treatment that has the same effect is surgery. In Germany it has replaced tendon operations in certain hospitals."
Marek Brylewski, one of of Carsten's patients, had been suffering from painful tennis elbow for three years before he tried Shockwave therapy. "I was initially sceptical, especially after previous disappointing results from other treatments," he admitted. "The pain did decrease after the first session and after the second was much better. A few weeks after the second session I played my first game after three years without any pain. What a feeling!"
Of course, as with many high-tech treatments, Shockwave therapy is not cheap. One session, which includes a consultation and treatment, costs Â£265. Carsten says patients normally need two to three sessions before all their tennis elbow pain has gone. But be warned. If your tennis elbow is caused by incorrect technique then Shockwave therapy will only relieve pain temporarily.
Carsten works out of his surgery in central London. To Contact him call 02075849054.