It’s one of the lesser-known physiotherapy techniques, but one that can be effective.
Shockwave therapy (also called radial shockwave therapy) is a technique that uses high-energy sound waves – and not electrical shocks – to help assist the healing process after an injury.
Shockwave therapy is used for musculoskeletal injuries, mainly those areas where connective tissues come into contact with bone. Examples of common injuries treated by shockwave therapy treatment include tennis/golf elbow, rotator cuff tendonitis/calcification, stress fractures, trochanteric bursitis in the hip, patellar tendonitis and jumper’s knee, hell spurs and Achilles tendonitis, and Morton’s neuroma in the foot.
The benefits of shockwave therapy treatment is that it is increasingly proven to be an excellent way to trigger the body’s healing process and reduces pain while restoring movement. And it is a very low-effort treatment, lasting only five minutes per treatment. The treatment is done on a weekly basis, and three sessions are normally enough for most patients.
How it works
Shockwave treatment works by using radial acoustic shockwaves to stimulate self-healing. These shockwaves – which are not electrical but rather sound shockwaves – are administered through a special wand hand piece that dispenses the waves for a brief amount of time directly to the affected injured tissue areas.
What these shockwaves do is really quite amazing. The pressure from the shockwaves will be transferred to the tissue. As a result, special micro-cavitation bubbles are generated, and these will expand, burst, and produce a force called a resultant force. This goes through the tissue and actually stimulates the cells dealing with connective tissue and bone healing.
By stimulating these cells, the body’s natural self-healing mechanism is triggered. These processes involve increased metabolism and give your blood circulation a boost. The result of this is that your damaged tissue gets better healing treatment from your body, and the damaged tissue will begin to regenerate itself, with an accompanying inflammatory response allowing the healing process to take effect.
Some patients find shockwave therapy slightly uncomfortable to go through. However, these patients are often in the minority, and most are able to easily tolerate the five-minute treatments. Though there won’t be any pain immediately after the treatment, there is a chance that discomfort will be felt in the hours following. This discomfort can persist for up to two days, and patients must cut back their physical activity, and resist the urge to use anti-inflammatory medications or ice.