What is Shock Wave Therapy?
A shock wave in medical terminology is a sonic pulse that can pass through the surface of a body without injury to act upon the tissues below.
It was first used in the area of medicine by urologists in the 1980s in the disintegration of kidney stones and was adapted for use on other musculoskeletal regions of the body 15 years ago where it has demonstrated significant improvements in many chronic musculoskeletal disorders.
How does it work?
A shock wave is generated by a machine and is transferred into the body through a water-based gel, radiating outwards into the tissues within its field of scope. The shock wave stimulates the local metabolism and circulation resulting in a boost to the body’s own natural healing process. This is a particularly beneficial effect in those with chronic musculoskeletal disorders or pain.
Shock waves can also assist in the breaking down of calcium deposits within tendons, and can alleviate pain by affecting the sensory nerve fibres in the region that transmit messages of pain.
What does it treat?
Shock wave therapy suits best those affected by a chronic musculoskeletal disorder, such as:
- Plantar fasciitis with/without heel spur
- Calcific rotator cuff tendonitis
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Patellar tendinopathy
- Myofascial trigger points
The area of research in shock wave therapy is forever expanding however and its effectiveness in other soft tissue disorders such as tennis or golfer’s elbow, tibial stress syndrome and adductor syndrome is being investigated thoroughly.
Are there any side effects?
Like any physical intervention, there are some side effects that can be observed following shock wave therapy. Most frequently, these are temporary soreness, swelling or reddening of the skin – though symptoms typically last for only 24-48 hours after the intervention. There are certain conditions however where shock wave therapy is contraindicated or not advised. These include vascular or nerve disorders, tumours, pregnancy, over the growth plate in children or in cases of infection. Patients are always assessed and screened before undergoing shock wave therapy.
When should I consider shock wave?
If you have a chronic musculoskeletal disorder such as tendinopathy that has proven to be resistant to other interventions or treatments. Beneficial results can be seen as early as one week, though it usually requires 3-6 sessions to gain the full benefit.