Shockwave Therapy: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Ms. Thula Chelvan
Published at: 17/4/2024

Shockwave Therapy: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Key Takeaways

  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is a non-invasive treatment modality that utilizes high-energy acoustic waves to stimulate the healing process in a variety of musculoskeletal disorders.

  • The therapy can benefit patients by reducing pain, accelerating recovery, and improving mobility without the need for surgery.

  • Some patients may experience immediate relief, but typically, significant results are noticed after several weeks.

  • Side effects are generally minimal, but may include temporary discomfort or swelling at the treatment site.

  • Costs vary and may not be covered by insurance, but the value of avoiding surgery makes it a worthwhile consideration.

What Is The Purpose of Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy, a form of regenerative or orthobiologic medicine, utilizes Extracorporeal Focused Ultrasound Waves (Eufows) to target injured or inflamed tissues within the musculoskeletal system to produce high-energy acoustic waves that trigger a cascade of mechanobiological events within the targeted area. This mechanobiological response encompasses:

  • Angiogenesis: Eufows stimulate the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), enhancing blood flow and delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to the injured tissues.

  • Lithotripsy: The acoustic energy facilitates the fragmentation of scar tissue and microcalcifications (lithotripsy), promoting the breakdown of these impediments to healing.

  • Growth Factor Induction: Shockwave therapy also encourages the release of growth factors, such as Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) and Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF), which play a critical role in stimulating tissue repair and regeneration.

By initiating these cellular processes, Eufow therapy promotes a natural healing response within the targeted musculoskeletal tissues, potentially alleviating pain and improving mobility. This minimally invasive approach offers a valuable treatment option for various musculoskeletal conditions, often preferred by patients due to its ability to avoid surgical intervention.

Common Conditions Treated

Shockwave therapy is used to manage a variety of conditions, especially those involving connective tissues like tendons and ligaments. Some of the most common ailments it addresses include plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, jumper's knee, and shoulder tendinitis, among others. If you're dealing with persistent pain from these or similar conditions, shockwave therapy might just be the non-invasive solution you've been searching for.

Benefits of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy offers a unique and patient-centered approach to treating chronic musculoskeletal conditions. 

Non-Invasive Nature

One of the standout benefits of Shockwave Therapy is that it's non-invasive. This means no scalpels, no stitches, and no scars.

Here's a closer look at how shockwave therapy works:

Targeted Delivery

The electrohydraulic lithotripter is a lightweight and portable device that utilizes three distinct frequency settings (typically ranging from 4 to 21 Hz) to deliver targeted acoustic waves. The user can adjust the treatment time directly on the hand control for a personalized experience. The device also comes with a supply of ultrasound gel, which acts as a coupling agent to optimize wave transmission between the device and your skin.

Shockwave Therapy Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Triggering the Body's Healing Response

The shockwaves stimulate various cellular processes within the injured tissue, which include:

  • Improved blood flow: The shockwaves may promote the formation of new blood vessels, known as angiogenesis, which can enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the area.

  • Increased collagen production: Collagen is a key protein that provides structure and support to connective tissues. Shockwave therapy is thought to stimulate the production of new collagen, potentially leading to stronger and more resilient tissues.

  • Reduced pain perception: The shockwaves may also have a pain-modulating effect, potentially helping to alleviate discomfort associated with the injury.

By promoting these cellular processes, shockwave therapy aims to accelerate the body's natural healing response and improve the function of the affected tissue.

Recovery Time and Outcomes

Because Shockwave Therapy doesn't involve surgery, recovery times are significantly shorter. Most people can resume their normal activities within a day or two. While individual results can vary, many patients report substantial improvements in relief and function in about twelve weeks following the therapy. This swift return to form is crucial for athletes, busy professionals, or anyone eager to get back to their routine.

Potential Side Effects of Shockwave Therapy

Like any medical treatment, shockwave therapy comes with minor, short-lived side effects.

Short-Term Discomfort

Immediately following the treatment, you might experience some soreness, akin to what you'd feel after a good workout. This discomfort is typically mild and fades within a few days. It's your body's natural response to the shockwaves and a sign that the healing process is in motion.

You’d also experience side effects like swelling and bruising at the site of treatment. Remember, the purpose of shockwave therapy is to alleviate pain and restore function, and it does this remarkably well for countless individuals.

Cost of Shockwave Therapy

The cost of shockwave therapy can vary widely based on geographic location, the provider, and the number of sessions required. On average, each session can range from $100 to $300. Considering that a full course of treatment typically involves several sessions, the total cost may quickly add up.

Insurance Coverage and Out-of-Pocket Expenses

One of the key considerations with shockwave therapy is whether your insurance will cover the cost. Unfortunately, not all insurance plans cover this treatment, so it's important to check with your provider. In cases where insurance does not cover the therapy, patients will need to handle the expense out-of-pocket.

Despite the potential costs, many patients consider Shockwave Therapy as a valuable investment in their health. The treatment's ability to avoid surgery, reduce long-term medication use, and improve quality of life can outweigh the initial expense. When considering the value of Shockwave Therapy, it's also worth noting the potential savings from a quicker return to work and daily activities.

How Long Does It Take for Shockwave Therapy to Work?

Most patients are eager to know how quickly they can expect results from shockwave therapy. While some may feel improvement immediately after the first session, the majority will notice significant benefits after three to six sessions, spaced out over several weeks. Complete healing and the full effects of the treatment may take even longer, depending on the severity of the condition being treated.

Timeline for Treatment Effectiveness

Generally, patients may begin to experience pain relief and improved mobility within a few weeks after starting treatment. However, the full extent of healing can take several months. It's important to have realistic expectations and to follow the healthcare provider's advice for the best outcomes.

Factors Influencing Individual Response

Several factors can influence how quickly and effectively Shockwave Therapy works for an individual. These include the age of the patient, the chronicity of the injury, overall health, and adherence to treatment protocols. 

Lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, can also play a role in the healing process. It's crucial to maintain open communication with your healthcare provider and to adhere to any recommended aftercare to maximize the therapy's benefits.

MSK Doctors For Your Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment option for various musculoskeletal conditions. It utilizes high-energy acoustic waves to stimulate tissue healing and regeneration. This targeted approach can effectively address chronic pain, improve blood flow, and accelerate the recovery process in conditions like:

  • Plantar Fasciitis: Which is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick ligament in the sole of the foot.

  • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis): Pain on the outer elbow caused by overuse of the muscles that extend the wrist.

  • Patellar Tendinitis (Jumper's Knee): Inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone.

  • Calcific Tendonitis: Calcium deposits within a tendon, causing pain and limited mobility.

  • Chronic Low Back Pain: Persistent pain in the lower back that can be caused by various factors.

Shockwave therapy offers a safe and often effective alternative to surgery or medication for managing these and other musculoskeletal conditions.

MSK Doctors empowers patients with a comprehensive platform to navigate their musculoskeletal healthcare journey. Our extensive network encompasses highly qualified and experienced musculoskeletal specialists, including:

Orthopedic Surgeons: Specialize in surgical diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

Rheumatologists: Experts in diagnosing and managing autoimmune and inflammatory conditions affecting the joints, muscles, and bones.

Sports Medicine Physicians: Specialize in treating musculoskeletal injuries related to sports participation.

Physiatrists: Specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation, focusing on non-surgical approaches to musculoskeletal pain management and recovery.

Through MSK Doctors, you gain access to detailed profiles of these specialists, complete with verified patient reviews to help you make informed decisions. Our platform also offers a wealth of educational resources on various musculoskeletal conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Conditions Can Shockwave Therapy Address?

Shockwave Therapy is a versatile treatment that can address a wide range of musculoskeletal issues. It's particularly effective for chronic tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis. It's also used to treat conditions like tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, jumper's knee, and shoulder tendinitis. The therapy is beneficial for those who suffer from pain related to these conditions and are seeking a non-invasive treatment option.

Moreover, Shockwave Therapy can be a boon for patients with calcific tendonitis or those who suffer from heel spurs. By targeting specific areas with acoustic waves, the therapy can stimulate healing and provide significant pain relief. It's a treatment that spans various conditions, offering a non-surgical solution to chronic pain.

Is Shockwave Therapy Painful?

During the shockwave therapy session, you might feel some discomfort, akin to quick, repetitive tapping on the skin. However, this sensation is typically manageable, and the intensity of the shockwaves can be adjusted to your comfort level. The procedure is relatively short, usually lasting about 15 to 20 minutes, which helps in minimizing any discomfort experienced.

After the treatment, it's not uncommon to have some soreness in the treated area, similar to what you might feel after a vigorous workout. This is a normal response and indicates that the healing process is underway. The discomfort is usually temporary and should subside within a day or two.

Can Shockwave Therapy be Repeated?

Yes, Shockwave Therapy can be repeated if necessary. The number of sessions you may need depends on the severity and duration of your condition. Typically, a course of treatment involves 3 to 5 sessions, but some patients may require additional sessions for optimal results. It's important to follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and to allow sufficient time between sessions for the body to respond to the treatment. 

Moreover, some patients may find that they experience continued improvement over time and may choose to have another round of therapy later on if symptoms reoccur. As with any medical treatment, it's essential to discuss the frequency and number of treatments with your healthcare provider to ensure the best care plan for your specific needs.

How Should I Prepare for A Shockwave Therapy Session?

Preparing for a Shockwave Therapy session is straightforward. It's recommended that you:

  • Avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications for at least 48 hours before the session, as these can interfere with the body's natural healing process.

  • Wear comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the area being treated.

  • Have a light meal a few hours before your appointment to ensure you're comfortable and not distracted by hunger during the session.

Additionally, it's important to discuss any concerns or questions you may have with your healthcare provider before the treatment. This will help you go into the session feeling prepared and at ease.

What Should I Expect After Undergoing Shockwave Therapy?

After a Shockwave Therapy session, it's normal to experience some immediate pain relief, although the full effects of the treatment may take a few weeks to manifest. Here's what you can typically expect post-treatment:

  • Mild soreness or bruising in the treated area, which should diminish within a few days.

  • A possible increase in your range of motion and flexibility as the pain decreases.

  • Guidance from your healthcare provider on any follow-up care, which may include specific exercises or temporary activity modifications to aid in recovery.

It's crucial to follow any aftercare instructions provided by your healthcare provider to ensure the best possible outcome. Most importantly, be patient with your body as it heals and responds to the therapy.

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