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Shockwave Therapy: An Effective Non-Invasive Treatment For Soft Tissues

Shockwave Therapy: An Effective Non-Invasive Treatment For Soft Tissues
Shockwave Therapy An Effective Non-Invasive Treatment For Soft Tissues Of The Musculoskeletal System

Shockwave Therapy A New Tool In Physiotherapy

Shockwaves are acoustic waves with an extremely high energy peak like the ones which occur in the atmosphere after an explosive event such as a lightning strike or a sonic boom. A shockwave treatment differs from ultrasound therapy (another commonly used treatment modality by physiotherapists) by its extremely large pressure amplitude, as well as this ultrasound usually consists of a periodic oscillation whereas a shockwave is a single pulse.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) where the word extracorporeal refers to a procedure performed outside the body and Radial shockwave therapy are a modern treatment tool where high-energy sound waves are introduced into the painful areas of the body and was first used in 1980, when used to disintegrate kidney stones in a patient.

Therapeutic Effects Of Shockwave Treatment

During Shockwave therapy a high-intensity sound wave interacts with the tissues of your body, leading to a cascade of beneficial effects including:

  • neovascularisation ingrowth,
  • reversal of chronic inflammation,
  • stimulation of collagen and tissue regeneration,
  • and dissolution of calcium build-up.

Shockwave therapy creates an optimal healing environment by causing stimulation of these listed biological effects, basically shockwave treatment can help trigger your biology to start to heal the affected tissue.

Indications For The Application Of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave treatment is frequently used in physiotherapy, podiatry, orthopaedics and sports medicine. In physiotherapy is it often used to treat variety of chronic tendinopathies including the Achilles tendon, rotator cuff tendons, patella tendons and “tennis elbow” as well as heel pain including planta fascia disorders among others.

Shockwave therapy can be indicated in situations where:

  • pain has been present for 3-6 months or longer
  • where previous conservative treatment such as targeted exercsies, biomechanical and ergonomic changes and other manual or electrotherapy treatment has failed.

Precautions Regarding Shockwave Treatment

Shockwave therapy should not be used in situations where:

  • there is over a 50% tear to the tissue,
  • a tumour in the area,
  • if pregnant,
  • or if there has been a cortisone in the area in the previous 6 weeks.

As a result of these and other precautions it is advisable prior to any shockwave therapy an ultrasound and X ray of the area are done first.
Some complications of shockwave therapy can include an increase in pain (temporarily), haematoma and rupture. I typically advise post shockwave treatment the individual avoids strenuous activities for 24-48 hours after treatment.

Typical Shockwave Treatment Numbers

Obviously every individual and their individual situation is unique and must be treated as such however typical shockwave treatment guidelines are that session are given around 1-2 weeks apart and a course of treatment often consists of 1-3 sessions with a maximum of 6 sessions in any course. Review is then carried out after 12 weeks and at this point it is often good to re-assess by ultrasound imaging. If the results were undesirable then another course of shockwave therapy may be carried out at this stage.

Put simply, shockwave therapy is relatively new non- invasive therapy method used in treating tendon and ligament disorders of the musculoskeletal system, effective where other conservative methods may have previously failed and the beneficial effects of which are often experienced after as few as 1 or 2 sessions.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance regarding shockwave therapy should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, general practitioner, sports medicine specialist or physiotherapist.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.