Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is the application of high intensity sound waves to the body in order to stimulate the natural healing processes, especially in conditions where healing is delayed or absent.
The treatment was first developed as a non-invasive method to treat stones (calculosis) in the kidney and gall bladder. In this application, two separate sound beams are directed at the stone from two separate directions, causing it to disintegrate.
When using shockwave therapy to stimulate soft tissue healing, the sound wave is of lower intensity to prevent tissue damage, but it is still high enough to trigger beneficial physiological responses.
Indications for Shockwave Therapy
Shockwave therapy delivers good results in various conditions. MOst of these conditions are characterized by slow healing rates and often become chronic. These include:
- Tennis elbow
- Plantar fasciitis
- Patellar tendinitis
- Rotator cuff tendinitis
- Achilles tendinitis
- Hip pain as a result of tendinitis
Shockwave therapy has also been used to promote bone and soft tissue healing in cases where normal healing is slow or absent.
The typical shockwave therapy progression looks as follows:
- The initial evaluation determines the exact nature and location of the injury. This determines whether shockwave therapy is indicated and what intensity should be used.
- The delivery of shockwave therapy to the injured area is typically quite quick – between 5-10 minutes total.
- Other therapeutic interventions may be used as well during the same session, such as mobilization and/or manipulation to the joints and soft tissues, or electrotherapy to increase circulation and manage pain.
- Most patients will receive 4-6 shockwave sessions total.
- The intervention may feel quite intense, sometimes even painful. It is however quite brief and usually well tolerated by most patients.