I’m a big fan of Shockwave therapy for a number of reasons. It can be used to treat injuries and conditions on all kinds of tissue—muscle, bone, fascia, tendons and ligaments. It can be used to treat conditions that have become chronic or hard to treat. And Shockwave therapy can promote healing deep within your body’s tissues.
For a quick refresher, or if you’ve never heard of Shockwave therapy here in Vancouver, it’s a treatment that involves pulses of acoustic (sound) waves that are transmitted to the injury or treatment area using a handheld device.
It penetrates into injured tissues to stimulate cellular metabolism, break down scar tissue, promote circulation, regenerate healthy tissue and speed up the overall healing process. Shockwave therapy is also known as Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy, or ESWT.
Shockwave therapy has some unusual uses, and in some cases, those uses may seem contradictory. Here are some interesting things to know about Shockwave therapy:
- Shockwave therapy can sometimes have opposing actions. One of the first medical uses for Shockwave therapy was a procedure called lithotripsy, which is the use of soundwaves to break up kidney and gallbladder stones. Early on, scientists were concerned that if the soundwaves could break up stones, it might also have an adverse impact on neighboring bone. However, research shows just the opposite to be true. Studies found that Shockwave therapy actually had an osteogenic effect, in that its use could help fractures heal more quickly! Similarly, when it comes to soft tissue, Shockwave therapy can break down scar tissue, but it also has a regenerative effect on soft and connective tissue and bone.
- The effects of Shockwave therapy are fairly quick and don’t need any downtime. Shockwave is used on elite and professional athletes, sometimes immediately before a competition, during breaks or at half time. Most therapies are done on an athlete’s day off, or need some healing time before using the injured area, but with Shockwave therapy, you can have a treatment at half time and be back in the game for the second half.
- Shockwave therapy can heal skin lesions. I frequently talk about the ability of Shockwave therapy to penetrate deep into tissues to heal. However, in another kind of opposing action, Shockwave can heal on the body’s surface, too. Scientists have discovered that Shockwave therapy is effective for healing skin lesions, such as ulcers, burns and postoperative and post-trauma wounds. In one study, researchers report that skin lesions were completely healed after Shockwave treatments, and in the remaining patients, their lesions were more than 50 percent healed. The researchers also discovered that the treatments decreased infections and inflammation in these patients’ wounds after their first Shockwave treatment. The researchers concluded that Shockwave therapy increases blood supply to the damaged tissue, which dramatically speeds up the healing process. I’ve used shockwave, with success, on the extremities, such as the toes and fingers to improve circulation and eliminate pain, numbness and tingling.
- Shockwave therapy can relieve pelvic pain in men. Research supports the use of Shockwave therapy for treating men suffering from pelvic pain. This is pain occurring in the pelvis, which is chronic and can arise from the prostate, perineum, inguinal ligament or genitals. It has been found that treating pelvic pain with Shockwave therapy floods the pain receptors in the pelvis, which interrupts the pain signals getting to the brain. Not only did researchers find that Shockwave therapy decreased pain, but it also reduced muscle spasticity, decreased inflammation and reduced study participants’ use of oral pain medications.
Early research is also promising in the treatment of pelvic pain in women. Studies have found that Shockwave therapy reduced pain in women who with vestibulodynia (pain following intercourse), and vulvodynia (pain around the vaginal opening). The effectiveness of this therapy in cases of both male and female pelvic pain is good news, as few effective treatments for these conditions exist.
- Shockwave therapy is not the same thing as using a massage gun. Shockwave therapy works through vibration, which occurs through a type of oscillation, in this case sound waves penetrating into tissue. Massage guns work through percussion, which is simply the result of one solid object striking another (the head of a massage gun hitting the treatment area). Massage guns are incredibly useful in pain reduction and healing, as they can help increase circulation, relax spastic muscles, improve lymphatic flow, and improve range of motion. In contrast however, the soundwaves emitted through Shockwave therapy travel deep into injured tissue and create changes at the cellular level. It promotes cell growth, and can speed up the healing of muscles, connective tissue (ligaments, tendons and fascia) and bones. It can also reduce inflammation, break up scar tissue and increase circulation, as well as promote the formation of new capillaries (angiogenesis). The bottom line is that a massage gun is a practical at home treatment for recovery of sore muscles and tendons and for injury prevention. However, while it requires a trip to the clinic, Shockwave therapy is effective for the recovery and healing of injuries that involve soft tissue, connective tissue and bones. It penetrates deeply to speed healing and regenerate new healthy tissue, and is often used where other treatments have failed.
If you’re wondering if Shockwave therapy is right for you or your particular injury or condition, please contact me. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.