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What is Shockwave therapy?

Written by: Natasha Green MSc PT, HBSc 

What is Shockwave therapy?

Shockwave therapy, or extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), consists of a non-invasive intervention using high-pressure sound waves to treat various musculoskeletal conditions. Shockwave therapy is predominately used for chronic connective tissue injuries that do not respond to your traditional rehab program.   

What is Shockwave used for?  

The most common injuries treated with shockwave therapy include plantar fasciitis with or without heel spurs, achilles tendonitis, and calcific tendonitis of the shoulder.   

That being said, shockwave therapy can treat many forms of chronic tendonitis (commonly referred to as tendinopathy) including tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, patellar tendonitis, and proximal hamstring tendonitis. Other soft tissue injuries such as shin splints, greater trochanteric pain syndrome and iliotibial pain syndrome are just a few other examples of conditions known to benefit from shockwave therapy. Consult your physiotherapist whether you are a candidate for shockwave therapy. 

What to expect with Shockwave therapy?  

Shockwave is administered once per week for a total of 3-6 weeks depending on the patient’s clinical presentation. Many patients report pain relief even after a single visit.  

The treatment itself only takes a few minutes to administer and your physiotherapist can adjust the intensity of the intervention based on your level of comfort. Shockwave can cause temporary soreness and/or mild tenderness in the area where it is applied, but these side effects are typically short-lived and resolve within a couple of days.    

How will Shockwave therapy help my injury?  

Shockwave therapy improves blood supply to the injured site, promoting healing and tissue regeneration. These changes ultimately lead to pain relief and improved function.  

How effective is Shockwave therapy?  

In a recent collection of over 100 studies, nearly 90% demonstrated that shockwave therapy led to positive outcomes for patients when compared to placebo or alternate treatment modalities (Schmitz et al., 2015).  

Is Shockwave safe?  

The safety of shockwave therapy has been researched extensively and has been found to be very safe for patients. However, there are certain contraindications or factors that may affect your eligibility for shockwave therapy and these include circulatory disorders, malignant tumours, pregnancy, infection, and open wounds.

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