Shockwave therapy, also known as extracorporeal shockwave therapy, is a non-invasive treatment that is used to treat illnesses such as chronic tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.
This therapy, which is normally administered by experienced therapists, assists patients in avoiding surgical procedures and steroid injections. Shockwave therapy works by sending energy pulses to the injured area, assisting the body's natural healing process. It aids in the rehabilitation of broken joints and tissue while reducing pain and discomfort.
In this article, we will explore the history, process, and benefits of shockwave therapy, as well as its applications in various fields. Whether you are a healthcare professional, an athlete, or simply interested in learning more about this fascinating field, this article will provide valuable information and insights.
The History Behind The Technology
Shockwave therapy was initially used in clinical practice to treat urologic disorders in 1982. This technology's efficacy in the treatment of urinary stones immediately established it as a first-line, non-invasive, and successful technique.
The origins of shockwave therapy can be traced back to the Second World War, when it was discovered that the lungs of castaways were damaged due to the explosion of water bombs despite the absence of external signs of violence.
The effect of shock waves caused by exploding bombs on tissue was seen for the first time. The first systematic studies on the use of shock waves in medicine were conducted in the 1950s. For example, it was reported that electrohydraulic shock waves might fracture ceramic plates in water.
In 1966, the interest in shock waves on human tissue was stimulated accidentally at Dornier company. During high-velocity projectile studies, an employee touched the plate at the exact instant the bullet hit the plate. He felt what felt like an electrical zap in his body. Measurements revealed that there was no electricity present. The created shock wave passed through the hand and into the body.
Germany studied the interaction of shock waves and biological tissue in animals from 1968 to 1971. This program was funded by the German Ministry of Defense. As a result, high-energy shock waves have long-distance effects on the organism. The effects of interfaces in the organism, as well as the difference and dampening of the shock wave as it travels through live tissue, were studied in particular.
Shockwave therapy has a rich history dating back to observations made during World War II. Since then, it has been developed and refined into a non-invasive treatment for a variety of conditions affecting joints and tendons.
How Is the Treatment Performed?
Shockwave therapy works by sending pulses of energy to the injured area. It can be used to increase circulation around injured soft tissues, break down calcified deposits (like kidney stones), stimulate cells that generate new bone tissue and connective tissue, and reduce pain by overstimulating nerve endings in the affected area.
There are two ways that shockwave therapy can be administered: focused shockwaves or radial pressure waves. Both methods are outpatient, and several treatments may be required to treat your specific condition.
Focused Shockwave VS Radial Shockwave Therapy
The focused shockwave method uses a very focused impulse to target affected areas through an extracorporeal shockwave therapy machine. There is no need for anesthesia since the shockwave used is low energy. The patient lays down with the affected area exposed. The doctor applies a special gel to the affected area, which helps deliver the impulses deeper into the skin.
Radial shockwave therapy is an FDA-approved treatment method that uses sound waves to heal tissue and bone-related injuries. The treatment is non-invasive and highly effective in enhancing blood circulation and accelerating the healing process, causing damaged tissue to gradually regenerate. A qualified physiotherapist will use an applicator over the area to administer the sound waves and promote healing.
The ballistic sound waves of the enPuls penetrate deep through your soft tissue, causing a microtrauma or new inflammatory condition to the treated area. Once this occurs, it then triggers your body’s natural healing response once again. The energy emitted also causes the cells in the soft tissue to release certain bio-chemicals that intensify the body’s natural healing process. These bio-chemicals allow for the building of an array of new microscopic blood vessels in the soft tissue.
Both methods are outpatient, and several treatments may be required to treat your specific condition. It has been argued that focused shockwave therapy and radial shockwave therapy should be viewed as distinctly different therapeutic modalities.
Shockwave Therapy in Sports
Shockwave therapy is an innovative treatment in sports medicine that uses ultrasonic waves to heal tissue and bone-related injuries. Shockwave therapy is typically administered by a sports medicine physician or athletic trainer with a physician’s supervision. An athlete’s doctor typically has a detailed understanding of their health history.
Athletic trainers have deep knowledge in the anatomy of joints, tendons, and ligaments and common patterns of sports injury. Shockwave therapy can help treat muscle-tendon irritations, fractures, and joint pains which are common ailments that many athletes have to deal with.
It accelerates the healing process of the body by stimulating the metabolism and enhancing blood circulation to regenerate damaged tissue. Shockwave therapy is used to reduce pain and promote healing from tendinopathy and many other sports injuries.
It can help heal injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy, bursitis or tendinopathy in the hip, stress fracture, fracture nonunion, frozen shoulder, osteoarthritis in the knees, hips, or shoulders, plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff injuries, strained calves and hamstrings, tendonitis in the foot and ankle, hip, or shoulder, tennis or golfer’s elbow.
Shockwave therapy has undergone extensive clinical studies and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For most patients, it has virtually no side effects or risks. If traditional treatments haven’t cured your injury, shockwave therapy may be a nonsurgical option to get you back to the activities you love with essentially no downtime from work or sports.
How Many Sessions Do I Need?
The total number of shockwave therapy sessions required will depend on the nature of the injury, where the area of injury is located in the body, and also the length of time the injury has been present. The average number of sessions is three to five (maximum will be 8) sessions; however, it is ultimately up to the patient.
Shockwave therapy works best when sessions are delivered approximately 1 week apart. Most injuries require a minimum of 3 sessions, so ideally, you want to plan to be available for 3 consecutive weeks without skipping a treatment for the best results. To further understand your options, consult a medical professional or your therapist.