Shockwave Therapy - Everything You Need To Know

During history, various pain-relieving procedures and technologies have been developed. Pain has always troubled humans, and the discoveries in medicine that deal with pain have been appreciated as something that has improved the quality of life. 

The root of the word pain is in Greek mythology. It comes from the Greek goddess Poine, who was sent to punish people who had angered gods. They suffered terribly, just like some of us today, although our world's (medical) technology is a thousand years more modern than that of Ancient Greece.

Pain, which seems to be the eternal enemy of man, has constantly motivated us to search for the most sophisticated pain-relieving methods. We have invented drugs, surgery, various kinds of physical therapy, and only relatively recently - shockwave therapy, which will be our topic today.

Shockwave therapy was first introduced back in 1980 as a treatment for noninvasive lithotripsy. However, in the last two decades, it has been used as a method for musculoskeletal disorders and the stimulation of bone growth. It promotes the development of new cells in damaged tissues by sending low-energy sound waves into the injured or painful body part. 

This highly sophisticated procedure has ushered in a new era of pain-relieving practices, introducing various frequencies of sound waves into its healing mechanisms. It has reduced the need for complicated surgeries and risky, invasive methodologies.

So, now that we have scratched the surface on shockwave therapy, let's dive a bit deeper to understand this advanced practice's mechanisms, purpose, and effects.

What Is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy is also called extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), where extracorporeal means "outside the body." It is a separate type of therapy and an umbrella term for a few other sound-wave therapies, such as radial wave therapy, focused wave therapy, acoustic pressure wave therapy, etc. Based on clinical evidence, it treats tendon pain and other conditions throughout the body. It is an innovative, affordable treatment and an evidence-based procedure.

It works by producing low-energy acoustic waves throughout the injured or otherwise affected areas in the body. The audible sound waves increase the blood flow into the treated area. This increase accelerates the body's in-bred healing processes. The waves shockwave therapy produces can also dissipate disorganized tissues and calcifications and reduce fibrosis.

The use of shockwave therapy for tendon issues is well supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). 

There are two types of shockwave therapy: focused shockwave therapy (FSWT) and radial shockwave therapy (RSWT). Here, I will dive into how these types of therapy work, their aims, and how they beneficially affect the treated areas.

shockwave therapy performed

Radial pressure wave therapy (RPW) is the most common type of SWT. It works by sending waves to the affected tissues. A projectile is accelerated to a high speed using compressed air, then suddenly decelerated by a transmitter held to the area being treated. The pressure waves lose power the deeper they enter the body.

RPW allows the treatment of both local and broad superficial areas. It is most suitable for conditions such as the Achilles tendon. It treats muscle chains effectively while the pressure waves mobilize the tissue layers, breaking up adhesions and trigger points. It is commonly used for fascia therapy. 

Focused shockwave therapy or hard shock utilizes smaller focal points for higher accuracy and greater treatment depth. Focused shockwaves can permeate much deeper into the cells and provide their power at the designated depth. At the site of actual wave generation, the amount of energy dispersed is marginal, restricting damages to the skin and underlying soft tissues. The registered nurse uses a stand-off applicator to adjust the depth of energy. The tissue close to the bone, calcifications or delayed unions, and non-unions benefit from focused shockwaves. 

Now that we have understood how SWT works and can help you, you might want to look at how beneficial it can be.

What Are The Benefits Of Shockwave Therapy?

One of the main advantages of SWT is its efficiency. It is enough to say that most patients will feel a significant clinical benefit in their pain 6 to 8 weeks after the treatment. The treatment is provided once a week for 3-6 weeks. Normally, the patient regains full mobility minutes after the therapy session and can return to their daily activities.

With minimal side effects, such as a mild bruising around the treated area just after the treatment, affordability, and a success rate of up to 88%, SWT seems to be worth it with no repeated instances of discomfort from the condition.

Aside from restoring the function of limbs and other parts of the body, shockwave therapy restores the hope of athletes, the elderly, and other individuals whose conditions seem to have failed to recuperate through previous operative and nonoperative kinds of treatment.

two elderly people after shockwave therapy for pain

Sports medicine and medicine generally reap the benefits of shockwave therapy, introducing new, noninvasive methods of treating and restoring injured or otherwise affected tissues.

Since it is a highly sophisticated healing method, shockwave therapy tends to avoid any pain or discomfort. Still, you might be wondering just how delicate its methods are and what you will need to go through in shockwave therapy sessions. The following passage answers that question.

What Does Shockwave Therapy Feel Like?

During shockwave therapy, you will feel light pressure and vibration as the probe of the therapy machine is moved around the aching part. The registered member of the staff will start the treatment with the device set to the lowest amount of pressure and will gradually increase the pressure as the affected area becomes numb. They will decrease the pressure or stop the treatment session instantly if you feel too much discomfort.

One of the advantages of this kind of treatment is that it only lasts for around 8 to 10 minutes. When a minute or two has passed, the painful area becomes desensitized, and you will feel much more comfortable. Patients usually feel only tolerable discomfort during the session. After the therapy is finished, you will feel relieved and should probably walk around the room without obstructions.

Now that you have been introduced to what shockwave therapy is and what it feels like, you will probably be interested in whether you are eligible for this procedure.

Let's take a look at who shockwave therapy is for.

Who Is Shockwave Therapy For?

If you suffer from any of the following conditions, shockwave therapy can help.

Most of all, SWT treats tendons in conditions such as the Achilles tendon and many more. If you experience pain in the back of your legs like the feeling that somebody kicked you in the calf, swelling near the heel, or an inability to stand on the toes on the injured leg, you might be suffering from Achilles tendon. 

Most people who experience these types of pain are aged 40-64 years. The Achilles tendon takes the toll of running, playing golf, walking the dog, and stepping off the curb throughout life. 

The next category is bone conditions. The most common bone pathologies are medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) and greater trochanteric pain syndrome. If you suffer from shin splints, you might notice tenderness, soreness, or pain along the inner side of your shinbone and mild swelling in your lower leg. Shin splints are common in runners, dancers, and military recruits. Athletes who have recently intensified or changed their training routines are also susceptible to shin splints.

a football player injured before shockwave therapy

Neurological disorders are another ailment that causes pain in the affected areas and can be treated with SWT. SWT has been proven to efficiently treat spasticity in adults with hemiplegia and children with cerebral palsy. If you are experiencing continuous muscle stiffness, spasms, and involuntary contractions, you might be suffering from some neurological disorder, and you should see a doctor immediately. Poor fine motor skills, trouble walking, and poor balance are some other symptoms that can suggest a neurological disorder, followed by pain, which experts can treat with shockwave therapy.

Muscle hypertonia is a complex condition in which there is too much muscle tone which causes arms or legs stiffness and difficulty moving. Muscle mass tone is controlled by signals that travel from the brain to the nerves and inform the muscle to contract. An injury might cause hypertonia to the central nervous system or spinal cord, resulting in disturbances in the nerve pathways responsible for muscle tone. 

Finally, shockwave therapy can treat connective tissue problems. Some of the conditions are plantar fasciopathy, finger, and scar tissue.

We have covered the various conditions shockwave therapy successfully treats, and you might be asking yourself if the procedures this therapy employs are safe and well-established, so let's take a look at whether and how secure SWT is.

Is Shockwave Therapy Safe?

As it is a relatively new procedure, many are doubtful about shockwave therapy. However, several review papers, meta-analyses, and randomized-controlled trials have concluded that shockwave therapy is a safe procedure for orthopedic conditions. 

The adequacy of shockwave therapy was also clearly supported by the cumulative data on its safety. The studies that the scientists have conducted have shown no cases of adverse events in any patient. Therefore, this treatment procedure is considered safe and noninvasive as opposed to complex surgical operations that include a lengthy downtime. 

Add to it the low cost and the absence of the dangers of surgical procedures and the postoperative pain, and you can see why today, more patients than ever are choosing shockwave therapy as their treatment of choice.

shockwave therapy - tool applying pressure

We have viewed shockwave therapy from different perspectives and gathered some general knowledge about it. We concluded that it is both a distinct type of therapy and an umbrella term for all sound-wave types of treatment. It is very often confused with Acoustic pressure wave therapy, so let's clear up that confusion and see how these two types of therapy stand against each other. 

What Is Acoustic Pressure Wave Therapy?

Acoustic Pressure Wave Therapy is a mechanical stimulation of tissues by low-energy pulsations applied to the affected area that encourages natural healing processes in the body. This type of therapy heals injuries and other types of jeopardized tissues by creating new blood vessels and completely regenerating cells within the affected tissues.

The acoustic waves have various purposes, which amount to all-natural healing processes within the body. They rejuvenate the vascular system and annihilate calcium and prevent fat accumulation, which significantly improves epithelial cell health.

old man cured by shockwave therapy and his doctor

Apart from treating injuries, acoustic pressure wave therapy is very efficient in treating erectile dysfunction since it results in neovascularization of cells, strengthening, and prolonging erections. It is a fast and effective treatment with a speedy recovery and minimal side effects. 

The most prominent and differential feature of acoustic pressure wave therapy is the boosting of collagen production. This boosting is very important since no other type of therapy can achieve it. Collagen is a protein that is used to heal affected areas in the body. Acoustic pressure wave therapy increases the production of this protein, thus making the body more ready to fight any further injuries or ailments.

So, whether you have erectile dysfunction, or are an athlete who needs to recover fast from an injury, or have an injury or a condition that has been unsuccessfully treated - there is hope.

With no anesthesia, no scarring, and no downtime, with acoustic pressure wave therapy, you are in for an effective, modern, almost painless treatment procedure that will free you of pain or other debilitating experiences, such as erectile dysfunction.

Let us help you. For more information, clients' experiences, reviews, and to get in touch, contact us and start the amazing recovery journey.

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