Shockwave therapy uses high energy sound pulses to stimulate healing in damaged tissue. Despite how it might sound. Shockwave does not deliver electric shocks. Current research has shown shockwave therapy to be an effective treatment for injuries such as tennis elbow, Achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis but there is reason to believe it would be as effective on several other types of tendon pain.
Shockwaves likely stimulates tissue in several ways. Research suggests several mechanisms of benefit including:
- Stimulating cells to release chemicals that reduce inflammation.
- Stimulating cells to release chemicals that induce tissue repair.
- Mechanical breakup of scar tissue or calcification in injured tendons.
Shockwave therapy is applied using a hand-held probe placed directly on the skin. It delivers audible pressure pulses into the tissue which feels and sounds a bit like a tiny jackhammer. Doses are generally delivered for 25 seconds at a time and multiple areas of a region may be treated in a single session.
Shockwave treatment is generally not painful though many patients describe it as mildly unpleasant or uncomfortable. The intensity is controlled by the practitioner and monitored so it is always within your personal comfort level. Some mild tenderness may be present for a day after your session.
Shockwave treatments are generally performed once per week for 4-5 sessions and then your condition will be re-assessed by your practitioner. Many patients will notice significant improvements during that time but the benefits of the treatment may continue for months afterwards. Your practitioner will help you determine what is appropriate for you.
Tendons heal slowly. Be patient and remember, while shockwave therapy can induce healing, your long term success will require that you address what caused the tissue injury in the first place. Outcomes for tendon pain are better if treatment includes biomechanical correction as well as modification of exercise / work intensity. Your MSK Health and Performance practitioner should help you with all of these things.
Book to see one of our MSK Physiotherapists or Chiropractors to start with a thorough history and exam and to determine if shockwave therapy may be right for you.