What Is Shockwave Therapy: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results
Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive procedure used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions including tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and chronic back pain. It utilizes sound waves and sustained pressure to stimulate the healing response of the body. The sound waves pass through the skin and underlying tissue, creating a pressure wave. The pressure wave spreads through the body and stimulates the healing process.
The therapy is administered by a medical practitioner who is trained in the administration and use of sound waves. The procedure is typically done in office or clinic, but can also be done in the home with the appropriate equipment. The practitioner will place a probe or paddle on the skin, which emits sound waves that pass through the skin and underlying tissues. The waves will cause a pressure wave to spread through the body that stimulates the healing response.
The use of shockwaves is a relatively new treatment option for treating soft tissue injuries. The therapy works by creating a pressure wave that passes through the body and stimulates an increased blood flow, which in turn helps to reduce inflammation and pain. The sound waves also help to break down scar tissue, allowing healing to occur more quickly.
Shockwaves can be used in conjunction with other treatments such as physical therapy and medications. Many times, shockwave therapy is used when other treatments have failed and the patient is not seeing any improvement. This type of therapy is often used for athletes who are trying to get back in action quickly.
Shockwave therapy has a number of benefits. It can help to reduce pain, inflammation, and scar tissue. It can help to speed up the healing process, allowing an athlete or active person to return to their activity level faster. The therapy is also less invasive than other treatment options, such as surgery, and has fewer side effects.
Shockwave therapy is safe and is often used for conditions such as tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and chronic back pain. The procedure is typically done in the office, but there are now home devices that are used for self-administered therapy.
Expected results from shockwave therapy vary depending on the condition being treated and the severity of the injury. It is important to seek medical advice from a qualified health practitioner before undergoing shockwave therapy. The treatment can be uncomfortable for some people and it should be expected that there may be some pain or discomfort during the procedure.
Generally, patients undergoing shockwave therapy experience a gradual reduction in pain and a corresponding improvement in functional mobility. The therapy is best used as part of an overall treatment plan and results are generally noticeable after a few sessions.
The amount of sessions necessary and the overall effectiveness of the therapy will depend on the condition being treated. Generally, the treatment is done as part of a comprehensive treatment plan which includes physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications.
If you are considering shockwave therapy, it is important to discuss this with your doctor or healthcare provider. They can help to determine if it is the best option for your condition.
When undergoing the therapy, it is important to stay calm and follow the instructions provided by the practitioner. The therapy can be uncomfortable, but proper breathing techniques can help to reduce the discomfort.
It is also important to follow a post-treatment plan. This may include physical therapy, medications, lifestyle modifications, and rest. These steps will help to ensure that the benefits of the therapy can be realized and long-lasting results are achieved.
In a study of 32 patients with chronic tendinopathy, it was found that shockwave therapy was successful in reducing pain and improving function. All patients in the study experienced a reduction of at least 50% to their pain level following shockwave therapy.
A study of 40 patients with plantar fasciitis found that shockwave therapy was effective in providing short-term pain relief. Following the shockwave sessions, the patients experienced a decrease in pain intensity and an improvement in foot function. The study also found that patients who received shockwave therapy in addition to physical therapy had better results than those who only received the physical therapy.
A study of 72 patients with chronic low back pain found that shockwave therapy provided significant relief from pain and improved function. The study found that patients had a decreased pain intensity of more than 50% following the treatment. The study also found that patients who received shockwave therapy had higher levels of satisfaction with their treatment and experienced better functional outcomes.
Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive procedure used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. The therapy works by creating a pressure wave that passes through the body and stimulates an increased blood flow, which in turn helps to reduce inflammation and pain. Studies have found that shockwave therapy can provide short-term pain relief and can improve function. The therapy is safe, with few side effects, and is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. It is important to seek medical advice from a qualified health practitioner before undergoing shockwave therapy.
Definition & Overview
Shockwave therapy, also referred to as extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), is a non-invasive procedure in which pressure waves are introduced into the body to treat various musculoskeletal conditions. As suggested by its name, it involves acoustic shock waves passed through the skin and targeted towards injured areas using a special hand piece or device. It helps treat chronic pain in affected areas such as the heel and elbows.
In shockwave therapy, mechanical, audible, and low-energy shockwaves (and not electric in nature) are used. These are intense and made of short energy waves that travel faster than the speed of sound. The procedure works by enhancing blood flow to the injured area, thereby accelerating the natural healing process. The exact scientific reason for its effectiveness in alleviating pain and inflammation is yet to be fully understood, but experts believe that ESWT does have a direct effect on nerves.
The concept behind shockwave therapy is similar to that of lithotripsy, a technology that uses shockwave to break apart kidney stones and has been in use for decades as a standard procedure for the said condition without the need for surgery. Medical experts have built up on this technology and have found that shock waves can also accelerate the healing process.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
ESWT is used to treat various musculoskeletal pain, diseases, and conditions, specifically those that involve connective tissues attached to the bone. It is a more advanced treatment option considered if conservative treatments such as rest, ice therapy, painkillers, steroid injections, and physiotherapy fail to offer patients adequate relief. It can treat various conditions including:
Plantar fascitis or fasciosis – A condition characterised by stabbing pain in the heel due to the inflammation of plantar fascia, which connects the bones to the toes.
Achilles tendonitis – A condition caused by overuse of the Achilles’ tendon, found between the calf muscles and the hind lower leg
Calcific tendonitis – This refers to pain caused by calcium buildup in the tendon, leading to pressure and irritation
Lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow” – A condition characterised by the inflammation and pain in the tendons of the elbow due to overuse of the forearm, arm, and the hand muscles
Morton’s neuromas – This refers to heel pain caused by thickening of connective tissues surrounding the nerve between the bases of the toes (common in women, usually due to long-term use of high heels or tight shoes)
Heel spur – This refers to the pain due to calcium deposit protrusion on the underside of the heel bone
Those suffering from the conditions above as well as other connective tissue related diseases are candidates for this treatment. Although generally safe, shock wave therapy is not recommended for:
- Pregnant women
- Patients taking blood clot inhibiting medications (anticoagulants) and antiplatelet drugs
- Patients with bone tumours and certain metabolic bone conditions
- Patients with nerve and circulation disorders
- Those with cardiac pacemaker or other device installed
- Those with foot infection
- Patients who had steroid injection in the past three months
How is the Procedure Performed?
After a full evaluation of medical history, the procedure is pre-planned by marking the trigger point and actual sore area, where a special gel is then applied. The ESWT hand piece is then positioned strategically to start transmitting shockwaves in marked areas. The handpiece delivers slow and gentle compressed air impulses through the ultrasonic gel. The entire procedure lasts only about 15 minutes.
During the procedure, patients usually feel some degree of pain. While the shock waves are being released, the orthopaedic specialist may adjust treatment to ensure that the pain is manageable and tolerable for the patient.
Energy pulsations of ultrasonic waves sent into the body in ESWT simulate the body’s innate self-healing process, making the procedure effective in inducing healing.
After the session, patients are usually able to stand up and walk normally. Pain medications, anti-inflammatory medication, or ice therapy are NOT recommended as these might interfere with the proper healing process. While normal activities can be resumed right away, strenuous activities must be avoided 48 hours after the ESWT session.
Most patients notice significant improvement after just one session. Success rates are about 80%, and increases to 90% with a second treatment.
Possible Risks and Complications
With shockwave therapy, there is no need for surgery, anaesthesia, or medications. As such, the procedure is free of side effects, assuming proper preparations were conducted. However, some patients report slight tingling sensation, hypersensitivity, redness, bruising or swelling, numbness, and warmth – all of which go away within a few days.
There may be a small risk for tendon or ligament to rupture as well as soft tissue damage. However, this complication can be easily avoided by hiring the services of a highly experienced medical consultant.
Waugh CM, Morrissey D, Jones E, Riley GP, Langberg H, Screen HR (2015). “In vivo biological response to extracorporeal shockwave therapy in human tendinopathy.” European Cells & Materials 29: 268–80; discussion 280.
Zuoziene G, Leibowitz D, Celutkiene J, Burneikaite G, Ivaskeviciene L, Kalinauskas G, Maneikiene VV, Palionis D, Janusauskas V, Valeviciene N, Laucevicius A (2015). “Multimodality imaging of myocardial revascularization using cardiac shock wave therapy”. International Journal of Cardiology 187: 229–30.