05 May 2017
A top drummer who feared unbearable elbow pain would force him to give up playing for good is aiming to get back on stage after specialist treatment by a North Wales doctor.
After years of working as a session musician in the UK and abroad, Mark Thompson was distraught to think his music career was behind him when his elbow joints deteriorated to the point where he could no longer play.
But specialised treatment from Spire Yale hospital’s consultant orthopaedic hand surgeon Mr Prash Jesudason has given Mark new hope for the future and the potential to once again return to the music circuit.
He said: “I cannot thank Mr Jesudason enough, I feel so much more upbeat. Just the fact that I’m rehearsing again is a positive result, as I really had thought I’d reached the point where I’d have to pack away the drum kit for good.”
Mark, who lives with his family in Holyhead, was struck with what fellow musicians refer to as ‘drummer’s elbow’ but is more commonly known as ‘tennis elbow’.
It had become so severe that it was disturbing his sleep and on waking in the mornings he even had difficulty picking up his tea cup for a breakfast brew.
He said: “That was the last straw. The pain in my elbows from just the simple action of holding the cup was excruciating and it was seriously affecting other tasks routine to daily life. When I was driving I couldn’t pull up the hand brake on the car without severe pain.
“I tried everything – painkillers, physiotherapy, acupuncture, ultra-sound treatment, cortisone injections – but nothing worked.
“It had started slowly, with one or two niggling pains as I was playing the drums, but over the last two years it got gradually worse, until it reached the stage where I couldn’t play properly at all. I felt I was letting down my fellow musicians by not being able to give my best performance. It was a nightmare for someone like me who has been involved in music since my youth.”
He was referred by his GP for an orthopaedic assessment and chose to go privately to Spire consulting rooms at Abergele, a satellite of the Spire Yale Hospital in Wrexham, where he saw Mr Jesudason, himself a talented musician.
Mark, who is also a producer and DJ as well as a drummer, said: “It was so reassuring to speak to someone who clearly understood the depth of my passion for music and took on-board my reasons for not wanting to give up the drums.
“He suggested a treatment involving surgery on both elbows, which didn’t surprise me. By this stage I knew in my heart that surgery of some form or another was probably the only answer to reducing the terrible pain.
“But I was certainly reassured and impressed with Mr Jesudason’s approach. He was not only concerned with eradicating the pain, but he wanted the best possible outcome for me as a drummer. He was genuinely concerned that I get back to a stage where I was able to play again.”
Mr Jesudason explained how the procedure involved treating the tendon around the outer part of the elbow joint which attaches the wrist extensor muscles to the bone.
Chronic irritation from repetitive gripping and loading of the extended wrist can wear out this tendon, leading to microscopic tears that don’t heal. This is what happened in Mark’s case.
He said: “By inserting needles into Mark’s elbows, tiny lesions were created in the tendon and soft tissues around the bone. The lesions serve to stimulate a healing response, by recruiting white blood cells to clear up the degenerate tendon, in essence, kick-starting the tendon to repair itself. The ideal outcome is to facilitate tendon healing and improve the pain.”
Mark is already feeling substantial improvement and is again able to practice the drums at home in his soundproofed attic studio.