Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that is used to promote healing and reduce pain in musculoskeletal conditions. Shockwave is most commonly used for injuries that are stubborn and have not responded well to other treatment. It promotes healing in multiple ways and triggers a new healing response in the area it is applied to. Shockwave uses sound waves to increase blood flow, bringing cells that are specific for healing and stimulates the body’s natural healing response. Shockwave also desensitizes the tissues and effects nerve endings to help decrease pain. Additionally, shockwave promotes the breakdown of calcium which makes it useful for things like bone spurs. Shockwave can also be used to release trigger points in the muscle and has been found to promote fracture healing. The use of shockwave therapy has increased in physiotherapy because it is accessible, cost effective and there few side effects and many potential benefits.
How does shockwave work?
Most shockwave machines have an applicator (that looks like a wand or gun) that is placed against the skin, using a water-based ultrasound gel as a medium. Within the applicator there is compressed air that causes a piston inside to create a sound wave. Short pulses are applied to the tissues through the applicator and the sound waves travel into the tissues. These soundwaves cause micro-trauma which causes the body to restart the initial phase of healing in the targeted area. The stimulation of the healing phase causes an enhanced inflammatory response that promotes healing and brings blood flow to the site.
What is Shockwave used for?
- Achilles’ tendinosis
- Heel spurs
- Plantar fasciitis
- Tennis or golfer’s elbow
- Releasing trigger points in the muscles
- Patellar Tendinopathy
- Frozen Shoulder
- Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy
Are there any side effects of Shockwave?
The procedure itself is non-invasive and has however it might feel uncomfortable while the soundwaves are being applied. Since shockwave triggers an inflammatory response, it is completely normal to experience redness, swelling, bruising and soreness in the area for a few days following treatment.
Other things to consider
If you do receive shockwave therapy, it would be ideal to avoid using ice or taking anti-inflammatories as it may interfere with the treatment effect. Secondly, shockwave has very few side effects, though any history of blood clotting disorders, cancer, infection, compromised tissue are potential contraindications for treatment. Your physiotherapist will assess your injury to make sure that shockwave is safe and appropriate for you.
Below is a demonstration of shockwave therapy: