What is Shockwave Therapy & How Can it Help Me?

Shockwave has become one of the more heavily marketed treatment options as of late. With more and more research demonstrating the potential benefits of this device it is becoming more popular in clinics across the country. Although we have found shockwave therapy to be a highly effective tool in the management of many injuries it is not meant for everyone and for every condition. Let’s cut through the marketing and look at what the research is telling us about shockwave. 

First off how does it work? 

This device uses compressed air to generate sound waves that pass through the skin to treat the underlying tissues such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. Check out our video demonstrating shockwave therapy: 

When the sound waves connect with these tissues, they create multiple therapeutic effects including: 

  • Reduced sensation of pain around the treatment area: Much like when you eat a hot pepper and your mouth turns numb, shockwave therapy has a similar affect. Treatment will change how the pain receptors perceive pain and result in a sort of localized numbing effect. 
  • Increased blood flow: When tissue becomes injured due to an injury or overuse, it will become more fibrotic resulting in altered blood flow. Blood contains all the nutrients that our tissue need for recovery and normal function so reduced blood flow will have a negative impact. Restoring normal blood flow into tissue will help with the healing process. 
  • Increased mesenchymal stem cell production: Stem cells are needed for the regeneration and repair of damaged tissue. Recent research has shown that shockwaves increase the activity of stem cells in the treatment area. 
  • Helps with bone formation: Studies are showing that shockwave treatments improve and accelerate new bone growth which is important for healing bone fractures and soft tissue injuries at the point of bony attachment. 

What all of this means is that the application of these sound waves to injured tissue is helping to accelerate the healing process which is something the majority of people would likely sign up for! 

Here are just a few conditions that shockwave therapy can help with: 

Overuse conditions such as: 

  • Jumper’s knee 
  • Achilles tendonopathies 
  • Plantar Fasciitis 
  • Shoulder Impingement 
  • Tennis Elbow 

Soft tissue injuries such as: 

  • Muscle strains 
  • Ligament sprains (ankle, knees ect) 
  • Muscle trigger points 

It is important to note that shockwave therapy is not ideal for everyone and not for every ache and pain. There are many conditions that shockwave is not effective for so it is important to undergo a thorough physical exam prior to receiving this treatment to ensure it can be applied safely and effectively. 

Any drawbacks to shockwave therapy? 

One of the advantages to receiving this treatment is that it is non-invasive. Although research is showing that it is a highly effective therapy it will not help 100% of the time. Other than some temporary soreness at the treatment site, the biggest drawback is that it might not work for you. Again, a thorough assessment can help determine if this is right for you. 

One last note, as with most technology, all shockwave machines are not created equal. Many units that market themselves as Shockwave Therapy here in Canada are not allowed to claim this in the USA due to an insufficient level of cavitation formed at impulse, which is a fancy way of saying lack of power. The smaller, table-top units create more of an aggressive pulse and are ultimately less effective. Look for models with a larger, external air compressor that will be able to generate more power. The Swiss Dolorclast has shown to be one of the most powerful, and effective, models on the market. 

If you have any questions about Shockwave therapy, or anything else related to therapy and fitness, feel free to reach out to us!