Close-up of male bandaging his arm

What is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy (SWT) is a healing treatment for injuries sustained where tissue attaches to bone. It is a non-surgical, non-invasive treatment that has been used for decades to treat a variety of physical ailments such as kidney stones and gallstones. The use of shockwave therapy to treat musculoskeletal injury is fairly new by contrast, but has several years of success, with new uses and studies reported regularly.

How does it work?

The shockwaves themselves are acoustic waves – think Hertz not Volts. Shockwave treatments have different results depending on the materials they encounter. For example shockwaves will break something hard like kidney stones, but contort muscles. In stimulating the muscles and connective tissues in the damaged area of the body, the shockwaves activate inflammation (swelling). Metabolism and blood circulation increase within that inflamed area, kick-starting the healing process that the body has been otherwise unable to fully initiate.

Shockwave therapy is not applied to delicate tissue or air-filled pockets such as above the lungs, larger nerves, blood vessels, the spinal column, or head.

Who are candidates for shockwave therapy?

Shockwave therapy is recommended for patients with musculoskeletal injuries causing chronic pain for at least 3 months who have exhausted all other treatments. A consultation is required to determine whether shockwave therapy is appropriate on an individual basis.

What does shockwave therapy treat?

Pain caused by injury involving connective tissues, joints and nerves, including:
•    Foot pain including heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis
•    Patellar tendonitis  or jumper’s knee
•    Shin pain and splints
•    Tennis elbow/golfer’s elbow
•    Shoulder pain including rotator cuff tendonitis and calcification
•    Hip pain
•    Stress fractures
•    Nerve damage

What is the appointment like?

Once you are made comfortable, the therapist applies gel and holds a small hand-held transmitter against the skin over the injured area. The transmitter transfers energized pulses – the shockwaves – through the skin to the injury.

Does it hurt?

Some patients find the treatment uncomfortable, but not intolerable. Because shockwave therapy stimulates an inflammatory response in the body to jump start the delayed healing, it is possible to experience some throbbing later. We recommend that you avoid strenuous physical activity for 48 hours after your appointment.

How long are treatments?

Treatments typically run from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the type and location of the injury.

How many treatments will I need?

The average recommended course of treatment is once-weekly for 3 to 5 weeks. Patients often report an immediate lessening of pain. After the initial course of treatment (the 3 to 5 weeks), there is a 3-week waiting period to allow for complete healing, then a follow-up assessment to determine if more treatment is necessary.

Is shockwave therapy harmful?

There are no known side effects from shockwave therapy.

Your Physiotherapy treatment may include shockwave therapy, to find out if shockwave therapy is right for you, call Wilson Health Services and book an appointment (519) 624-8000.