What Is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave Therapy
Medical provider using shockwave therapy on a patient

Shockwave therapy, also known as extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), is a non-invasive treatment modality often used in physical therapy, orthopedics, and sports medicine. This innovative therapy employs pressure waves to stimulate the healing process in certain ailing or injured body parts. Shockwave therapy work primarily on the connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments that have been damaged or distressed due to overuse, injury or degenerative conditions.

How Does Shockwave Therapy Work?

Shockwave therapy operates by delivering shock waves of high energy to painful spots in the tissues with subacute, subchronic and chronic conditions. The energy, produced by the shockwave device, promotes regenerative and reparative processes of the bones, tendons, and other soft tissues.

Here’s a step-by-step overview of how shockwave therapy generally works:

  1. A shockwave device transmits energy in the form of acoustic or sound waves to the area of concern.
  2. These shock waves can reach areas which are deep and difficult to access with other treatment options.
  3. It incites a bodily response that reinstalls natural healing process in cells inducing collagen synthesis and formation of new blood vessels.
  4. The increased blood circulation and formation of new blood vessels restore damaged tissue, promoting faster recovery and pain relief.

Benefits of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy has emerged as a preferred treatment option due to the many benefits it offers. Here are some of them:

  1. It’s non-invasive, reducing the risks that accompany surgical procedures.
  2. The therapy is versatile, proving effective for a range of injuries and medical conditions.
  3. It fosters healing at the cellular level, renewing tissues from the inside out.
  4. It enhances the blood supply, thereby hastening recovery and offering significant pain relief.
  5. The treatment facilitates new blood vessel formation, promoting long-term healing.

Conditions Treated with Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy has found application in the treatment of several conditions, such as:

  1. Acute and chronic muscle pain
  2. Tendon-related pain like Achilles tendinopathy, tennis elbow, and golfer’s knee.
  3. Heel pain such as plantar fasciitis
  4. Bone-related conditions like stress fracture and shin splints
  5. Therapy can also be effective for more advanced conditions, such as kidney stones.

Is Shockwave Therapy Effective?

Numerous studies support the effectiveness of shockwave treatment. Research indicates shockwave therapy provided a significant reduction in symptoms for conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, medial tibial stress syndrome, and Trochanteric pain syndrome. It is also showing promising possibilities for treating soft tissue injuries, rotator cuff injuries, and more.

The Procedure of Shockwave Therapy

A typical shockwave therapy session involves the following:

  1. Identifying the area of pain or tenderness.
  2. Applying a conductive gel to ensure the shock waves can effectively penetrate the skin.
  3. Manipulating shockwave device on the treatment area with regulated pressure.
  4. Treatment protocols vary between 3-5 sessions of 5-20 minutes each depending on the condition and severity.

The discomfort experienced is generally minor, and shockwave therapy does not require anesthesia.

Precautions and Side Effects of Shockwave Therapy

Like all treatments, shockwave therapy has some side effects and precautions:

  1. Common side effects may include minor pain or discomfort during or after the session, skin reddening in the treatment area, or minor swelling and bruising.
  2. Patients with blood clotting disorders, malignancies, or infections should avoid this treatment.
  3. Women who are pregnant, people who are on blood-thinners, and those with open wounds or skin conditions should not undergo shockwave treatment.

Choosing a Qualified Shockwave Therapist

Patients can rely on several criteria when choosing a shockwave therapist:

  1. The therapist should be certified to practice and should have relevant training in utilizing shockwave therapy.
  2. Clinical experience, especially experience in handling the patient’s specific type of injury or condition.
  3. Transparency about the expected timeline, results, and potential side effects.

Cost of Shockwave Therapy

The cost of shockwave therapy is usually affordable, depending on where you go to get treatment and whether or not your insurance plan covers it. Additionally, the number of treatments you need to get will naturally impact the cost, as most providers who use shockwave therapy charge per session.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shockwave Therapy

Here are some commonly asked questions about shockwave therapy along with their answers.

How does shockwave therapy work?

Shockwave therapy works by applying focused sound waves to the affected area. It stimulates the body’s self-healing mechanism by promoting collagen synthesis, blood circulation, and new blood vessel formation.

Is shockwave therapy a safe treatment option?

Yes, shockwave therapy is generally considered a safe treatment. However, as with any other treatment, there can be side effects. It’s important to discuss these with your therapist before commencing treatment.

Can shockwave therapy be used in conjunction with other treatments?

Yes, shockwave therapy can be combined with other therapies depending upon the type of condition and its severity.

How long does a shockwave therapy session typically last?

A typical shockwave therapy session usually lasts between 5-20 minutes, depending on the condition being treated.

What should I expect during a shockwave therapy session?

During a shockwave therapy session, pressure waves are applied to the affected areas. While this might cause minor discomfort, it’s generally no more painful than the condition that is being treated.

Are there any side effects or risks associated with shockwave therapy?

Potential side effects from shockwave therapy can include minor pain or discomfort during or after treatment, redness, swelling, or bruising. Those with certain health conditions such as blood clotting disorders should avoid shockwave therapy.

Is shockwave therapy painful?

Shockwave therapy can cause minor discomfort, but it’s generally not more painful than the condition being treated. The intensity of the shock waves can be adjusted according to the patient’s comfort level.

What conditions can be treated with shockwave therapy?

A wide range of conditions can be treated with shockwave therapy. This includes plantar fasciitis, knee pain, elbow pain, shoulder injury, Achilles tendinopathy, and even certain kinds of kidney stones.

How many shockwave therapy sessions are typically required to see results?

The number of sessions varies depending on the severity of the condition. However, most conditions show noticeable improvement within three to five sessions.

What is the success rate of shockwave therapy?

Research suggests that 60% – 80% of patients experience a significant reduction in pain or symptoms with shockwave therapy. However, success can depend on a variety of factors, including the specific condition being treated and the patient’s overall health.

Links to Shockwave Therapy Studies

  • Shockwave Therapy for Soft Tissue Conditions:
    • A systematic review summarizing the evidence base for the use of shockwave therapies on musculoskeletal injuries, particularly focusing on pain relief in soft tissue injuries​.
  • Shockwave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction:
    • An interim analysis of a phase II clinical trial on low-intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy (Li-ESWT) for men with erectile dysfunction, indicating safety with no reported adverse outcomes​.
  • Shockwave Therapy for Tendinopathy:
    • A review comparing therapeutic ultrasound and shockwave therapy, including low-intensity therapeutic ultrasound, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, and radial shockwave therapy, for treating tendinopathies​.
  • Shockwave Therapy in Sports Medicine:
    • A study exploring the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions in athletes with extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), discussing various protocols and the growing popularity of ESWT in sports medicine​.
  • Various Applications of Shockwave Therapy:
    • A review summarizing the use of extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) for erectile dysfunction (ED), diabetic foot ulcers (DFU), and possibly other conditions, emphasizing its potential in tissue regeneration and anti-fibrosis​.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *