What is Shockwave Therapy?
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is a type of electrotherapy utilised by osteopaths, physiotherapists, sports medicine doctors, podiatrists and other healthcare professionals to treat a variety of painful musculoskeletal conditions. ESWT works by creating mechanical waves of high energy acoustic pressure that are applied into a specific group of tissues. Each of these waves is termed a ‘shockwave’. These shockwaves have a profound effect on the human body’s healing capacity and there is years of research showing extracorporeal therapy works to drastically enhance the innate healing response of the body.
Having been originally used in the medical community to destroy kidney stones in the 1970’s, shockwave therapy began to be used to treat muscle and bone problems in the 1980’s and has been extensively researched in the field of musculoskeletal medicine for the last 20 years. There is currently significant amounts of scientific evidence supporting the use of ESWT in several conditions such as those listed below.
- Calcific tendinopathy of the shoulder
- Plantar fasciitis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Post stroke muscle spasticity
There is also evidence that EWST is effective for treatment of other muscular conditions such as other tendinopathies, spasming back muscles, ligament and muscle sprains as well as cartilage injuries.
Is Shockwave Therapy safe?
Yes! There are hundreds of studies over many years showing that ESWT can be safely used in almost every population and musculoskeletal condition. There are however some safety points that need to be considered. The use of shockwave therapy is not appropriate on the site where a steroid injection has been administered within the last six weeks or there is a local tumour in the region. It is also not advisable to use shockwave therapy directly over the spinal column or spinal cord.
It is often reported that shockwave therapy is painful, however, this isn’t really true! EWST can be uncomfortable, especially if being used to break down calcified tendon deposits in a condition called calcific tendonitis as higher power levels are used for this. But, in general we keep the power well within your own personal tolerance level. What we often find in the clinic is that patients find the relief they get after doing shockwave is so great that they ask us to keep turning it up even higher! That said, there always has to be a slow ramp of increasing intensity to avoid any adverse reactions.
How many Sessions of Shockwave Treatment will I need?
This would depend upon your specific condition but typically we treat most problems with 3-5 sessions of shockwave treatment. Rarely we would go above 6 sessions and almost never over 8 sessions. If you are not seeing improvement within 2-3 sessions it is likely that your condition is not responding to this extracorporeal therapy and it would be redundant to continue with additional sessions. ESWT is what we call an adjunct therapy, meaning we apply it on top of other treatments. Depending on whether you are being treated by a physiotherapist or osteopath, this will likely involve exercise therapy and or hands on manual therapies.
Is Shockwave Therapy the Right Treatment for me?
If you are keen to learn if shockwave can help with whatever condition you are dealing with, please get in touch with our expert therapists at City Osteopathy & Physiotherapy for an unbiased and non-pressured chat about its suitability. It’s important to note that while shockwave can be very effective for many conditions, it may or may not be suitable for your specific needs and condition. A good therapist will assess your need for it, spell out the pros and cons of its use and ultimately place the decision of its use in your hands.