Shockwave therapy is a highly effective way to target specific areas, making it a common treatment for musculoskeletal pain in muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments and nerves.
How shockwave therapy works
Shockwave therapy carries high energy to painful spots. The energy promotes regeneration and reparative processes of the bones, tendons and other soft tissues. It initially reduces pain through what is known as ‘hyperstimulation anesthesia’, when your nerves sending pain signals to the brain are stimulated so much that their activity diminishes, so the pain decreases. Basically, shockwave therapy alters the release of the pain mediator, and over time the shockwaves lead to the depletion of the pain receptor substance from nerve endings. The shockwaves also produce a regenerative tissue-repairing effect by stimulating the release of growth factors and improving blood supply leading to repair of tendon and bone.
What to expect
If you have been referred for shockwave therapy, you will be treated by a physiotherapist who specialises in this treatment. Your physiotherapist will locate the area of pain through palpation and apply ultrasound gel. Your shockwave impulses will be delivered using a hand-piece, which is moved continuously over the painful area/structure with mild-moderate pressure. The treatment takes about five to ten minutes.
How many sessions do you need?
Research suggests that you’ll get maximum benefit with three treatments, each one week apart. In some cases, your physiotherapist may recommend an additional one to two treatments.
Shockwave therapy has been used for many years and scientific evidence shows it is a very effective treatment.
- It is just as effective as three months of eccentric strengthening for Achilles tendinopathy
- It is superior to eccentric strengthening and traditional rehabilitation techniques for insertional Achilles tendinopathy
- It is an effective treatment for proximal hamstring tendinopathy
- It is an effective treatment for plantar fascia dysfunction (fasciitis)
- It is effective for treating hip and gluteal pain
- Can be used to effectively treat tennis and golfer’s elbow.
Shockwave is unsuitable in the following circumstances:
- If you are pregnant
- If you have a blood clotting disorder (including thrombosis)
- If you are taking oral anticoagulants
- If you have received a steroid injection within six weeks
- If you have a pacemaker fitted
- If tumours are present at the treatment site
- If you have an infection or skin abrasion at the treatment site.
Is it painful?
It is more uncomfortable than truly painful. The level of discomfort can vary from patient to patient and is dependent on injury location and severity.
Can the treatment be stopped I find it too painful?
Yes, of course it can be ceased, although the likelihood of you feeling the need to stop the treatment is very slim. Obviously, stopping will limit the effect of the treatment.
Will I feel pain afterward?
Usually, patients report a reduction in pain immediately afterward, however, there may be an ache or an increase in pain in the hours after treatment due to the mechanism of the shockwave acting on your injury. The best results occur 12 weeks after the initial treatment.
Are there any side effects?
Following the treatment, you may experience more pain, redness, bruising, swelling and numbness. These side effects should resolve within a week, before your next treatment.
Are there any restrictions after treatment?
We advise no specific loading of that area/injury for up to 48 hours after treatment.