What is Shockwave therapy and how does it work?

What is shockwave therapy?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is an effective and non-surgical technology utilizing high-energy, short-wavelength acoustic waves called shockwaves to reduce pain and promote healing. Shockwave therapy uses high-energy sound waves to stimulate healing in damaged tissues.

Healing effects include

  1. Bone and tendon regeneration,
  2. Increased blood vessel growth and
  3. A chemically induced decrease in pain and sensitivity of pain receptors.

 It is commonly used to treat chronic musculoskeletal conditions such as plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, and calcifying tendinitis of the shoulder. The treatment involves the application of shockwaves to the affected area, which stimulates the body’s natural healing processes and can help to reduce pain and improve function.

Shockwave therapy is thought to work by promoting the formation of new blood vessels in the affected area, which improves circulation and helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissue. It can also stimulate the production of collagen, which helps to repair damaged tendons and ligaments.

This method is relatively new and some studies have shown it to be effective in treating the mentioned conditions. However, further research is needed to confirm its effectiveness and determine the optimal protocol for use. It’s important to consult with a doctor or a specialist if you’re considering this treatment option.

How does shockwave therapy work?

Shockwave therapy accelerates the healing process in the body by stimulating the metabolism and enhancing blood circulation to regenerate damaged tissue.

The proposed mechanisms of action for ESWT at the site of treatment include the following

  • Promote natural formation of new blood vessels.
  • Reversal of Chronic inflammation
  • Stimulation of collagen production
  • Dissolution of calcification
  • Dispersion of pain mediating substances.
  • Release of trigger points and fascial densifications.

Multiple high-quality randomized clinical trials have provided substantial evidence that ESWT is a safe and effective non-invasive option for treatment throughout the musculoskeletal system.

Shockwave therapy has shown to effectively treat the following conditions:

  • Feet – heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, Achilles’ tendonitis
  • Elbow – Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Shoulder – Rotator cuff tendinosis.
  • Knee – patellar tendonitis, Jumpers knee
  • Hip – Trochanteric Bursitis, Piriformis syndrome.
  • Lower leg – shin splints
  • Upper leg – Iliotibial band friction syndrome
  • Back pain – lumbar and cervical spine regions and chronic muscular pain.

Who is not a candidate for shockwave therapy?

Although generally safe, shockwave is not recommended for:

  • Children
  • 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 an active infection
  • Patients who had a steroid injection in the past three months
Does Shockwave hurt?

During the procedure, patients usually feel some degree of discomfort. During treatment, your therapist may adjust treatment intensity to ensure that the pain is manageable and tolerable for you.

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 for 48 hours after the session.  There may be light bruising, redness, or tenderness in the next few days after your treatment.

We usually recommend your second shockwave treatment session to be one week later for this reason.

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 is very rare and our therapists are very careful to ensure that your treatment is carefully delivered and your reactions carefully monitored.


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