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Everything You Should Know About Shockwave Therapy

Amelia Grant

August 20, 2020

Shockwave therapy is a physiotherapy method that is successfully used in orthopedics, cardiology, urology, ENT practice, and cosmetology. In orthopedics, SWT has the widest range of indications. It allows you to treat bones, cartilages, muscles, tendons.

How shockwave therapy works

An acoustic shock wave penetrates deep into soft tissues by 1-3 inches and activates powerful regeneration processes. Blood circulation improves, metabolism increases, fibrous areas and bone growths are destroyed.

Treatment with SWT is considered one of the most effective, with almost complete safety. Tissue regeneration and pain relief during shockwave therapy far exceed the effect of medications. Patients who suffer from pain even with potent medications get relief after the first SWT procedure. In addition, with the help of shockwave therapy, it becomes possible to eliminate calcifications, bone growths, and osteophytes without surgery.

What is the effect of SWT?

The therapeutic effects of a shock wave are of 2 types: early and late. The early ones are observed immediately after the first procedure. These include elimination of pain, relieving spasms, and improving joint mobility. 

The patient's condition is greatly facilitated, which can lead to the false opinion that the treatment should be stopped. However, this is a mistake. It is the long-term effects that are the most important and affect the outcome of SWT. A sensible treatment results in angiogenesis, tissue regeneration, destruction of calcifications, etc.

Long-term effects develop gradually and increase after each procedure. The maximum effect of shockwave therapy is observed 1-4 months after the last session. In total, 6-7 sessions are recommended.

Indications for SWT

Initially, shock wave therapy was used to treat kidney stone disease. Low frequency pulses penetrated the skin and destroyed stones without harming the body. Later, this technique spread to urology, neurology, orthopedics and other branches of medicine. Physiotherapy can sometimes help avoid surgery, such as coronary stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Diseases for which SWT is useful:

  • radiculitis;
  • osteochondrosis;
  • herniated discs;
  • arthrosis;
  • prostatitis;
  • sports injuries rehabilitation;
  • heel spur;
  • Hallux Valgus;
  • scoliosis, kyphosis;
  • burns and trophic ulcers;
  • cellulite, etc.

Shock wave therapy is prescribed for sports injuries, fractures, muscle and tendon damage. The impulses stimulate blood circulation and reduce pain after a couple of sessions. After the end of the course of treatment, the joints become more mobile and the ligaments are strengthened. 
Contraindications and side effects
Since shockwave therapy involves an active effect on tissues, it is necessary to consult a doctor before performing it. As a rule, this procedure is not prescribed for children and adolescents who have not yet fully formed a skeleton.

SWT is contraindicated for:

  • pregnancy;
  • the presence of a pacemaker;
  • oncological diseases;
  • diabetes;
  • acute infectious diseases;
  • high blood pressure and severe heart diseases;
  • blood clots in the heart cavity.

In some cases, physiotherapy can lead to subcutaneous hematomas and pain. The reason for such phenomena can be individual intolerance, inexperience of the doctor, low-quality equipment.

How shockwave therapy is performed

A SWT session is performed in a physiotherapy room. The doctor applies a special gel to the area of ??the skin that will be exposed to the pulsation. Depending on the type of procedure, the patient may feel some discomfort. 

However, many adherents of this therapy note that over time, discomfort is minimized, and the positive effect increases. On average, one session lasts about 15 minutes. Redness may appear on the skin after the procedure.

There are several types of SWT:

Radial SWT is characterized by weak impulses. It is prescribed for arthrosis, minor bruises, obesity;
Planar therapy involves the use of medium-power acoustic waves;
Focused shockwave therapy is used for intensive therapy of diseases accompanied by severe pain.

Shock impulses pass through the membranes of healthy cells, affecting only the inflamed points. In the early stages of therapy, metabolism gets activated, and later the scars and calcifications dissolve. 

The treatment plan is developed individually depending on the diagnosis. The shock wave has a long-term effect, so sessions are scheduled with a break of several days. The course of treatment, if necessary, is repeated after six months or a year.


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