Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)

Shockwave therapy is a modality that is becoming more common in the field of physical therapy, as well as other health care fields. Shockwave therapy, or extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), is used in the treatment of many musculoskeletal conditions, primarily those involving connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons. One of the most common conditions treated with shockwave therapy is plantar fasciitis.

Orthopedic conditions commonly treated with shockwave therapy include:

Shockwave Therapy
Shockwave Therapy Machine Being Administered On Lateral Epicondylitis
By Jpwvenn (Delivering a treatment) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

How does shockwave therapy work?

Shockwave therapy works by emitting high energy pulses. These pulses of acoustic energy are focused on the target tissues by the handpiece / applicator of the shockwave therapy machine and are believed to cause localized microtrauma that stimulates the bodies natural healing processes.The shock waves are believed to stimulate angiogenesis / neovascularization (new blood vessels) and neurogenesis (new nerve cells). The microtrauma increases local circulation and enhances breakdown of calcifications (calcium build-up).

Does shockwave therapy hurt?

Shockwave therapy should not cause you pain. Occasionally, if the area being treated is already very painful, some increase in discomfort may be experienced during treatment. The intensity of the shockwaves can be controlled by the therapist using the machine in such a way that discomfort can be minimized.

How long is a typical shockwave therapy treatment?

The actual application of the shockwave therapy typically only lasts for around 5 minutes.

How is shockwave therapy different from therapeutic ultrasound?

Shockwave therapy and ultrasound are quite similar in many respects. However, shockwave therapy has a much higher pressure amplitude and uses individual pulses instead of the oscillating wave of energy usually used in therapeutic ultrasound.

Are there any scientific studies supporting / refuting the effectiveness of shockwave therapy?

You bet there are. This site lists some interesting scientific articles to get you started.

Read about other therapeutic modalities:

1 thought on “Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)”

  1. Avatar for Physical Therapy Web

    I would like to know if anyone has used shock wave therapy in the clinic. If so, for what injuries? What type of machine do you use?? What protocols did you use??? IF there a billing code, or use as non billable??

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