What is Shockwave therapy?

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves creating a series of low-energy acoustic wave pulsations that are directly applied to an injury through a person’s skin via a gel medium.

Shockwave therapy is its treatment for a lingering injury or pain resulting from illness. You don’t need painkillers with it – the purpose of the therapy is to trigger the body’s natural healing response. Many people report reduced pain, and mobility improves after the first treatment.

How does shockwave therapy work?

Shockwave therapy is a modality that is becoming more common in physiotherapy. Using much lower energy than in medical applications, shockwave therapy, or extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), is used in treating many musculoskeletal conditions, primarily those involving connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons.

Shockwave therapy is most suited for people with chronic (i.e. greater than six weeks) tendinopathies (commonly referred to as tendinitis) that haven’t responded to other treatments; these include tennis elbow, Achilles, rotator cuff, plantar fasciitis, jumpers knee, calcific tendinitis of the shoulder. These could be a result of sport, overuse, or repetitive strain.

What to Expect During Shockwave Therapy?

The physiotherapist will assess you on your first visit to confirm that you are an appropriate candidate for shockwave therapy. The physio will ensure you are educated about your condition and what you can do in conjunction with treatment – activity modification, specific exercises, assessing any other contributing issues such as posture, tightness/weakness of other muscle groups etc. Shockwave treatment is usually done once a week for 3-6 weeks, depending on the results. The treatment can cause mild discomfort, but it only lasts 4-5 minutes, and the intensity can be adjusted to keep it comfortable.

Shockwave therapy has been shown to treat the following conditions effectively:

  • Feet – heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis
  • Elbow – tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Shoulder – calcific tendinosis of rotator cuff muscles
  • Knee-patellar tendonitis
  • Hip – bursitis
  • Lower leg – shin splints
  • Upper leg – Iliotibial band friction syndrome
  • Back pain – lumbar and cervical spine regions and chronic muscular pain

Some of the benefits of shockwave therapy treatment:

  • Non-invasive solution for chronic pain in your shoulder, back, heel, knee or elbow
  • No anaesthesia is required, and no drugs
  • Limited side effects

After the treatment, you may experience temporary soreness, tenderness or swelling for a few days following the procedure, as the shockwaves stimulate an inflammatory response. But this is the body healing itself naturally. So, it’s important not to take anti-inflammatory medication after treatment, which may slow down the results.

Are there any side effects?

Shockwave therapy should not be used for a circulation or nerve disorder, infection, bone tumour, or metabolic bone condition. Shockwave therapy should also not be used if there are any open wounds or tumours or during pregnancy pregnant. People using blood-thinning medications or severe circulatory disorders may also not be eligible for treatment.