What is Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy Used for?

Nobody likes to be in pain, and with so many great, modern new treatments available nowadays, our options for dealing with niggling health issues such as tendon-related pain have never been greater.

Perhaps you're wondering if extracorporeal shock wave therapy may be an ideal treatment for yourself or a loved one, or maybe your doctor has mentioned it as a possibility for treating your current condition. In this article, we're going to explore the different conditions extracorporeal shock wave therapy can treat, how it works, and what you can expect when you undergo this procedure.

What is extracorporeal shock wave therapy?

Shock wave therapy is a non-invasive and highly effective outpatient procedure that harnesses high-energy acoustic waves (otherwise known as 'shock waves') to drive a mechanical pressure pulses through to your body's tissues, and these pressure waves are often used to treat numerous musculoskeletal conditions.

It works by applying a non-invasive probe to your skin. The probe then transfers an electrical charge which sends a focused energy wave to the treatment area (be it your elbow, knee, shoulder or other area). The shock waves create a force against your soft tissues which can induce healing by causing inflammation, which in turn helps to improve your blood flow and encourages your body to repair itself.

Studies have shown extracorporeal shock wave therapy to yield a significant improvement in patients suffering from a range of tendon-related conditions - with some experiencing a 76% improvement in quality of life.

After treatment, patients are expected to reduce their activity levels for around one to two weeks, and get plenty of rest without pushing themselves too hard towards recovery. This gives them the best chance of allowing their body to heal itself without any added stress.

Which conditions can shock wave therapy help treat?

Shock wave therapy is very effective in treating a variety of tendon-related pain, so you may find it could be a beneficial treatment option for you.

Some of the conditions shock wave therapy is widely used to treat include:

  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Golf elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • Heel pain (plantar fasciitis)
  • Shoulder tendonitis
  • Degenerated tendons (Achilles tendonitis)
  • Knee trauma
  • Hip pain: greater trochanteric pain syndrome
  • Idiopathic lower back pain, radicular and pseudoradicular lower back pain
  • Calcifying tendinitis in the shoulder
  • Subacromial pain syndrome
  • Osgood Schlatter disease (OSD)
  • Other degenerative disorders

When should this treatment be avoided?

There is very little risk associated with the treatment itself, however, you should not undergo extracorporeal shock wave therapy if any of the following apply:

  • You have poor sensation (neuropathy)
  • You have hypersensitivity in the area to be treated
  • You have open sores
  • You have a heart condition, or are prone to seizures
  • You are pregnant

The main complications involved in extracorporeal shock wave therapy tend to be pain and hypersensitivity in and around the treatment area. These complications do improve over time, although shock wave therapy does not have a 100% success rate.

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