Understanding Shockwave Therapy
Shockwave Therapy, also known as extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) or Radial Pressure Wave Therapy, uses acoustic or pressure waves to target painful areas of the body. These waves deliver a series of high-energy impulses that cause a biological response in the treated tissues. Shockwave Therapy is designed to stimulate the body's immune system to reduce inflammation and trigger healing. It triggers new blood vessel growth…
The Science Behind the Wave
The magic of shockwave therapy lies in its ability to initiate biological changes. The shockwaves are thought to:
Stimulate New Blood Vessel Growth: New blood vessels form with SWT, increasing blood supply and oxygenation of the treated area, which is essential for tissue healing.
Reverse Chronic Inflammation: By activating the body's intrinsic anti-inflammatory mechanisms, SWT can reduce chronic inflammation that is often the root cause of pain.
Stimulate Collagen Production: The building block of much of the body's tissue, collagen production is vital for repairing damaged structures.
Decreases Friction: The increase in the molecule Lubricin with SWT reduces friction
Break Down Calcification: In tissues like tendons, calcified fibroblasts can be broken down by the mechanical pressure of the shockwave, leading to pain relief.
Desensitize Nerve Endings: The intense pulses can reduce the transmission of pain signals by desensitizing nerve endings.
Who Can Benefit from Shockwave Therapy?
Shockwave therapy has shown promise for a variety of conditions, particularly those involving connective tissues like tendons and ligaments. It's been used for:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
- Golfer’s Elbow (medial epicondylitis)
- Jumper's Knee (patellar tendinitis)
- Shoulder Tendinitis
- Achilles Tendinopathy
- IT Band Syndrome and Hip Pain
- Shin Splints
- Back pain
- Osteoarthritis Pain
- Chronic Pain
Patients with these conditions who have not found relief from traditional treatments often turn to shockwave therapy as an alternative to more invasive procedures or long-term medication use.
The Shockwave Therapy Experience
Typically, a shockwave therapy session lasts around 20-25 minutes. While some patients report immediate relief, the effects of the therapy are usually cumulative, with patients typically requiring a series of treatments. The procedure is generally well-tolerated, with minimal side effects, which might include transient redness, swelling, or discomfort at the treatment site.
Research and Evidence: Riding the Wave to Recovery
A growing body of research supports the use of shockwave therapy for chronic pain. Studies have found it to be effective in reducing pain and improving functionality in various musculoskeletal conditions. For instance, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis (review of the research) found that SWT is a safe and effective modality in managing patients with plantar fasciitis, particularly in reducing pain and improving function. In fact, it was the primary therapy in treating plantar fasciitis when compared to other treatments!
Looking Ahead: Shockwave Therapy in Pain Management
Shockwave therapy is continuing to gain traction as a viable option for chronic pain management. It offers a non-pharmacological and less invasive alternative to traditional treatments, aligning with the growing patient preference for treatments that support the body's own healing processes.
The non-invasive and safe application of Shockwave Therapy is a great alternative to dry needling and injections. In certain conditions it out performs these more invasive treatments.
Chronic pain sufferers interested in shockwave therapy should consult with their healthcare provider to see if this treatment could be a wave worth catching on their journey to a pain-free life. Shockwave Therapy is most successful when combined with an in-depth evaluation by an orthopedic specialist, like a Physical Therapist, Orthopedic or Sports Medicine Physician, and hands-on treatment and corrective exercise.