What is shockwave therapy?

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that stimulates the body’s natural healing process. The therapy involves the delivery of high-frequency shock waves (sound impulses) to the injured area to stimulate healing.

It can relieve pain and promote healing of injured tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues (1). Shockwave therapy is sometimes referred to as extracorporeal shockwave treatment  (ESWT). The device sends shockwaves into the injured tissues, stimulating increased blood flow and growth hormones to the area, promoting new tissue growth, breaking down calcified deposits and reducing pain by overstimulating nerve areas in the effected area.

In comparison to ultrasound waves, the shockwave peak pressure is approximately 1000 times greater than the peak pressure of an ultrasound wave (1).

The treatment can also promote healing after orthopedic surgery — for instance, if a hip impingement has damaged tendons and ligaments around the hip. Surgery may correct the hip impingement, but after years of overworking and degeneration because of the impingement, the surrounding tendons often remain painful. Shockwave therapy can be used to address this secondary issue.

What injuries can be treated with shockwave therapy?

Shockwave therapy is used to reduce pain and promote healing from tendinopathy and many other sports injuries (2- 17). Some examples include:

  • foot pain: plantar fascitis and Achilles’ tendinopathy
  • Achilles’ tendinopathies
  • knee pain:patella tendinopathy (jumper’s knee)
  • leg pain:hamstring injuries
  • hip pain:rectus femoris and lateral hip pain with gluteal tendinopathies
  • elbow pain: Golfers and tennis elbow
  • shoulder pain:rotator cuff injuries
  • Bursistis : Common sites for bursitis include the shoulder (subacromial bursa), hip (trochanteric bursa), knee (prepatellar bursa), elbow (olecranon bursa), Achilles tendon (retrocalcaneal bursa) and foot.
  • Adhesive Capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Periostitis / shin splints /
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome

Shockwave therapy is often used in combination with other therapies such as physical therapy rehabilitation and specialised excercises. In the case of sports-related injuries, we work with the athlete to analyse their movement patterns and help them build strength and adjust their technique, so they are less prone to re-injury.

Is shockwave therapy painful?

Most patients report some discomfort during shockwave therapy, but most do not find it painful. The amount of discomfort depends in part on the person, their injury, and whether the damaged tissues are close to a bone. (Treatments delivered closer to a bone are generally more uncomfortable.)  As soon as the treatment is over, the discomfort typically stops.

How long does shockwave therapy take?

A single treatment usually takes between 15 to 20 minutes. Depending on the injury, a patient will usually receive three to five treatments over a period of several weeks.


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