Shockwave therapy is a multidisciplinary device used in sports medicine, orthopaedics, and physiotherapy. It is a non-surgical therapy that is used as part of rehabilitation to promote recovery by providing pain relief as well as mobility restoration. It can be used in a number of musculoskeletal conditions, including tendon problems, bursitis, and bone injuries.
How does it work?
The treatment initiates a pro-inflammatory response, an inflammation-like condition, in the tissue that is being treated. Blood circulation and metabolism in the area increases, which in turn accelerates the healing process. The shockwaves break down scar tissue and bony deposits stimulating new healing.
What can be treated?
- Shockwave therapy has been used to treat the following conditions:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Calcific tendonitis of the shoulder
- Tennis/golfer’s elbow
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Patellar tendinopathy/jumper’s knee
- Trochanteric bursitis
- Morton’s neuroma
- Medial tibial stress syndrome
What are the benefits?
- No need for anaesthetic
- No need for surgery or medication
- Transient analgesic effect after treatment
- No lengthy rehabilitation, loss of mobility or time away from work
- Fewer complications
- Strong clinical results with 8–12 weeks
Can anyone have shockwave therapy?
Most people are appropriate for shockwave therapy. However, if any of the following criteria apply to you, this would need to be discussed with your clinician:
- Corticosteroid injections to the painful area in the last three months
- Anti-coagulation medication
- Blood clotting disorders, ie. haemophilia
- Thrombosis ie. blood clots
- Heart/circulatory problems
- Acute infection/inflammation in the area to be treated
- History of cancer
- Decreased sensation in affected area
- Open wounds
How successful is it?
Shockwave therapy has been shown to be effective in 75–80% of cases involving chronic conditions. Pain relief normally occurs within one to two weeks of treatment, but the final outcome can only be evaluated several months after treatment has ended as the healing process will be ongoing
Some frequently asked questions:
Is the treatment painful?
Most people report the treatment as uncomfortable, but tolerable. If you cannot tolerate it, please inform your clinician. Adjustments can be made.
Does it hurt afterwards?
Discomfort may be experienced for approximately two to four hours after treatment. Normally, it will resolve within 48 hours, but if severe, can last up to five days. Over-the-counter pain relief can be used to help manage this. Please note: avoid anti-inflammatories.
Are there any other side-effects?
Skin redness or minor bruising over the tender area can occur but normally resolves within two to three days.
What activities should I avoid after treatment?
We strongly advise you to avoid any activity that will stress the treated area for at least 48 hours after each treatment.
How many treatments will I need?
Normally 3–5 treatment sessions, 7 –14 days apart, is sufficient.
Who performs the treatment?
Shockwave therapy treatment may be performed by sports physicians, orthopaedic consultants, and physiotherapists.
Is shockwave therapy treatment covered under private healthcare insurance?
Some, but not all private healthcare insurance companies will cover the cost of shockwave therapy. Please speak to your provider directly.
What does NICE recommend?
Please see here for more details on the NICE guidelines surrounding the use of ESWT.