Shockwave Therapy – What is it & How can it help?
April 4, 2023
Shockwave therapy has become increasingly common as a treatment option for musculoskeletal conditions to assist in the body’s natural healing process, but what exactly is it and how does it work?
The full name is extracorporeal shockwave therapy or ESWT. During shockwave therapy treatment, a device is used to apply pulses of acoustic (soundwaves) directly to the affected area through the skin. This type of conservative treatment has been shown to accelerate healing and help with pain relief.
Firstly, the shockwave treatment generates force, which helps to break down calcium deposits and scar tissue. The mechanical pressure generated by the shockwave also increases circulation and metabolism in the injured area, which is crucial for healing to occur. Additionally, acoustic waves help with tissue regeneration by stimulating different cells in the body, including osteoblasts and fibroblasts, which are cells responsible for building new bone tissue and connective tissue. Finally, shockwave therapy can help reduce pain by stimulating the local nerve endings.
What conditions can it be used for?
There is growing evidence that shockwave therapy is an effective tool for a number of musculoskeletal conditions, particularly for chronic tendinopathies. Some common conditions that have been shown to respond well to shockwave therapy include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow), calcific tendonitis of the shoulder, and patellar tendinitis. Shockwave therapy may also be used to treat non-union fractures.
While shockwave therapy can be helpful in speeding recovery and reducing chronic pain, it is important to remember that it is just one part of your rehabilitation plan, and should be combined with other physiotherapy treatments, not as a stand-alone treatment. At Synergy Physio + Pilates, physiotherapists use the whole body ConnectTherapy™ assessment & treatment model to determine if your painful area is symptomatic because of a Driver or cause, elsewhere in your body. This may be due to compensations or muscle imbalances from previous injuries causing inappropriate loads on your symptomatic tissues. If there is pain-free dysfunction elsewhere in your body that is causing your symptoms, shockwave to the symptomatic tissues will likely result in only temporary improvement.
The use of shockwave combined with treatment for your Drivers results in both the most efficient treatment and the most long-lasting effects.
Are there any risks?
Shockwave therapy is a safe, non-invasive therapy that can complement your physiotherapy treatment. Although it is possible to feel some discomfort at the site of the treatment during the application of the shockwave therapy, it is typically very well tolerated.
In summary, shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment option with minimal side effects that can be used to help you recover quicker from injury and get back to the activities that you enjoy. It is growing in popularity in the world of sports medicine and it’s clear to see why.
All of our therapists at Synergy Physio are trained in shockwave therapy. They would be happy to discuss any questions you have and whether it could be a useful addition to your physiotherapy plan to help you reach your goals.
Book your Shockwave Initial Assessment today – click here.
Written by Lauren Albert-Lebrun, one of our marvellous Synergy Physios.
Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Shockwave therapy. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/canada/services/shockwave-therapy
John-Chu, C., Safadi, S., Ager, A., Tomer, A., & Jackson, K. (n.d.). Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT). Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Extracorporeal_Shockwave_Therapy_(ESWT)
Moya, D. Ramon, S., Schaden, W., Wang, C., Guiloff, L., & Cheng, J. (2018). The role of extracorporeal shockwave treatment in musculoskeletal disorders. The Jounral of Bone and Joint Surgery 100(3): 251-262. http://dx.doi.org/10.2106/JBJS.17.00661
Shockwave Canada (n.d.). Scientific Evidence and Shockwave Therapy Reviews. https://shockwavecanada.com/shockwave-therapy-reviews-and-scientific-evidence/
Thomas, K. (2022). How and where to use extracorporeal shockwave therapy. Co-Kinetic Journal 94(October): 14-21.