Understanding Shockwave Therapy
More than 40 years ago, scientists developed extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ECSWT) as a way to break down urinary stones. For more than 25 years, ECSWT has also been used to stimulate the healing and regeneration of tissue.
Sports Med London offers shockwave therapy for the treatment of chronic tendon and other injuries.
How ECSWT Works
A non-surgical, non-invasive treatment, shockwave therapy sees a healthcare professional use a handheld device to send high-energy sound impulses into the body. The non-electrical impulses cause blood to flow to the area of the body being treated, and they cause some inflammation. The impulses radiate through the tissue in an irregular pattern.
This action can disintegrate fibrous scar tissue, such as that usually associated with chronic conditions, and it encourages tissue healing and the regeneration of cells. The result usually is improved function and less pain in the injured or affected body part. ECSWT is at its most effective when it’s followed by progressive strengthening exercises or another rehabilitation programme.
What Does Shockwave Therapy Treat?
Shockwave therapy has been used to treat a variety of chronic tendon problems and other issues. A few conditions that have been treated effectively with ECSWT include:
- Pain in the Achilles’ tendon/back of the heel – Achilles tendonitis
- Frozen shoulder – Adhesive capsulitis
- Hamstring pain – Proximal hamstring tendonitis
- Jumper’s knee – Patellar tendonitis
- Lateral hip pain – Greater trochanteric pain syndrome
- Medial arch (foot arch) pain – Plantar fasciitis
- Tennis elbow – Lateral epicondylitis
How ECSWT Is Administered
Before your healthcare professional administers shockwave therapy, they will consult with you to identify the exact area where you feel pain. They will then apply gel to that area – the gel helps send the soundwaves smoothly through the skin and into the body.
After applying gel, your healthcare professional will use the device to begin the ECSWT proper. They will do this by pressing a soundwave-producing probe to the affected area. Although the impulses may cause some discomfort initially, they should not be painful, and the discomfort should not last.
What To Do After Shockwave Therapy
Whether you experience an almost-immediate results or notice a difference after a few weeks of shockwave therapy, there are a few aftercare tips you should follow. You might notice that the area becomes red or swollen and more painful than usual, although not intolerably so.
Make sure you avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, and that you do not apply ice or an icepack to the treated area, as it may reduce the effects of ECSWT. You can keep up your normal levels of activity after receiving shockwave therapy, but do not do anything unusual. Limit any activities that will put stress or strain on the treated area for 48 hours, such as jumping, running, and sports.
What is Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ECSWT)?
Shockwave therapy uses acoustic (sound) waves with high energy peak through a handheld probe applied to the affected area. It has been shown to reduce the quantity of nerve fibres transmitting painful impulses thereby reducing pain in the area. It is also thought to reverse chronic inflammation, induce tissue healing and produce new blood vessels in the area.
A small amount of gel is applied to the skin overlying the affected area before applying impulses through the probe. Each session typically lasts between 5-10 minutes.
It has a wide range of applications including most tendinopathies and calcific tendinopathies where calcium deposits build up in a tendon or muscle.