Shock waves are mechanical forces that create cavitation bubbles that have a physical impact on the tissue. This increases microcirculation and stimulates healing. It also helps break down scar tissue.
Unlike steroid injections and surgery, shock wave therapy is safe, effective and non-invasive. It has a very good clinical success rate in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.
What is Shock Wave Therapy?
Developed originally to break up kidney stones (lithotripsy) and later used to treat bone conditions like non-union fractures, extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a noninvasive treatment in which a hand held device emits inaudible high energy sound waves into the body. The resulting mechanical pressure wave damage to the tissue triggers the body’s natural healing response and in many cases relieves pain. Mr Gordon uses the Swiss DolorClast, a state of the art machine with two different settings; radial and focused shockwaves.
These pressure waves are similar to the acoustic waves caused by lightning strikes or the sonic booms generated by airplanes. These acoustic pressure waves stimulate the metabolism, build new blood vessels and promote tissue regeneration. They also induce pain relief by hyperstimulation of the nerve transmission system and disintegrate calcified deposits in the case of tendinopathy.
Shockwave therapy is a great option for patients who have not had any success with more conservative treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), rest, physical therapy or chiropractic care. In addition, it is a quick and cost-effective treatment that can be done without the need for sedation or anesthesia. Patients often experience pain reduction within a week of receiving treatment and have the added benefit of returning to their normal life activities sooner. Patients receive weekly treatment sessions of about 15 minutes each for a total of three to five treatments.
How Does Shock Wave Therapy Work?
A podiatrist Carlingford will use a device that converts compressed air into sound waves. They will then apply a gel to the area being treated and deliver the shock waves over the skin. The shock waves stimulate the healing process and cause a small amount of local inflammation, but this is part of your body’s natural response to heal itself.
The sound waves will also break down calcific deposits. They will create small bursts of pressure that penetrate the tissue and break apart calcifications that are causing pain, stiffness and mobility issues. The treatment will also help to stimulate the production of new blood vessels to improve the circulation to the area and promote healing.
You will likely need a few shockwave therapy sessions to get the maximum benefit. Each session lasts only a few minutes and is relatively comfortable. You may experience a little discomfort at the time of your appointment, but this should go away after the treatment.
Shock wave therapy is a great option for patients who want to avoid surgery and are looking for alternatives to conservative treatments like rest, NSAIDs and physical therapy. It is an excellent choice for those with chronic musculoskeletal problems like plantar fasciitis, lateral tennis elbow and other tendonopathies. It is also a good option for those with spinal or joint calcification who are not candidates for surgical intervention.
What are the Benefits of Shock Wave Therapy?
The shockwaves desensitise nerve endings which can lead to an immediate decrease in pain. They also cause controlled micro-trauma to the tissue which stimulates the body’s own healing response. This is done by forming new blood vessels which increase circulation in the affected area. It also breaks down disorganised calcifications and degenerate tissue which then promotes healing.
Shockwave therapy is a simple treatment which has been shown to be effective in treating chronic tendon injuries such as plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, chronic back pain and chronic shoulder pain due to calcific tendonitis (frozen shoulder). It can often provide a solution for patients who are not responding to NSAIDS or other conventional treatments like injections.
The shockwaves are delivered from a specialist machine through the skin into the affected area. This can be uncomfortable for some people but it is not painful. The shockwaves do not destroy or damage the tissue but instead have a number of therapeutic effects including stimulating the formation of neovascularisation in the affected area, enhancing tenocyte activity, decreasing Substance P which is a neurotransmitter that relays pain signals, and positively regulating inflammation. This stimulates the natural healing process in damaged tissue which is often stalled in chronic and degenerative conditions like calcific tendonitis. In some cases the results can be quite dramatic reducing or eliminating the symptoms of the condition.
What are the Side Effects of Shock Wave Therapy?
Unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or “shock therapy”) you may have seen depicted in movies, shock wave treatment does not cause pain, discomfort, or any physical trauma to the patient. In fact, patients often find it relaxing.
This advanced treatment can be used to treat a variety of painful musculoskeletal conditions in bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. It helps break up soft tissue calcifications, enhances collagen synthesis, and releases growth factors to improve blood circulation and accelerate the healing process. It can help patients avoid invasive treatments such as steroid injections or surgery.
In one randomized controlled trial, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of extracorporeal shockwave therapy in shoulders with chronic calcific tendinitis. Using the University of Peloponnese Self-Administered Pain, Functionality and Quality of Life Questionnaire, they measured pain, functionality, and quality of life before, immediately after shock wave treatment, and at four weeks after. The shock wave treatment group experienced significantly more improvement in all three measures than the control group.
The treatment is safe for most healthy adults, but it is not recommended if you have bone tumors, metabolic bone diseases or have poor blood circulation in the area where you would like to receive the shockwave therapy. You should also be aware that shockwave therapy is not a first-line treatment option and you will typically need to undergo at least one course of conservative therapy, such as physiotherapy, before your Castle Hill podiatrist can recommend this advanced treatment.