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Shockwave therapy

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is a non-invasive treatment modality that utilises shockwaves to treat chronic, painful and musculoskeletal conditions.

ESWT is a treatment that initiates a pro-inflammatory response in the tissue being treated. Blood circulation and metabolism in the area increase which in turn accelerates the healing process. The shockwaves break down scar tissue and bony deposits, stimulating new healing.

What happens during shockwave therapy?

The painful area is located via palpation. Ultrasound gel is placed on the skin over the target area and shockwaves are delivered to the tissue via a compressed air impulse hand piece. The shockwave radiates out across the painful area. Treatments typically last 5 to 15 minutes.

What are the benefits?
  • No need for anaesthetic.
  • Non-invasive.
  • No need for surgery or medication.
  • Transient analgesic effect after treatment.
  • No lengthy rehabilitation, loss of mobility or time away from work.
  • Fewer complications.
  • Strong clinical results within 8 - 12 weeks.

Shockwave therapy has been used to treat the following conditions:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Calcific tendonitis of the shoulder
  • Tennis/golfer's elbow
  • Achilles tendinopathy
  • Patellar tendinopathy/jumper's knee
  • Trochanteric bursitis
  • Morton's neuroma
  • Medial tibial stress syndrome.

There are some contraindications and precautions to consider:

  • Corticosteroid injections to the painful area in the last three months.
  • Anti-coagulation medication.
  • Blood clotting disorders i.e. haemophilia.
  • Thrombosis i.e. blood clots.
  • Heart/circulatory problems.
  • Pacemaker.
  • Acute infection/inflammation in the area to be treated.
  • History of cancer.
  • Decreased sensation in the affected area.
  • Open wounds.
  • Pregnancy.

ESWT has been shown to be effective in 75% to 80% of cases involving chronic conditions.

Pain relief normally occurs within one to two weeks of treatment but the final outcome can only be evaluated several months after treatment has ended.

Is the treatment painful?

Most people report the treatment as uncomfortable but tolerable. Adjustments can be made by your therapist.

Does it hurt afterwards?

Discomfort may be experienced for approximately two to four hours after treatment. Normally it will resolve within 48 hours but in severe cases can last up to five days. Over-the-counter pain relief can be used to help manage the pain. Anti-inflammatories should be avoided.

Are there any side effects?

Skin redness or minor bruising over the tender area can occur however this normally resolves within two to three days.

What activities should be avoided after treatment

We strongly advise that you avoid activities that will stress the treated area for at least 48 hours after each treatment.

How many treatment sessions will be needed?

Normally 3 - 5 treatment sessions 10 to 14 days apart is sufficient.

Who performs the treatment?

Your physiotherapist or sports therapist is trained to perform the treatment.

Is ESWT covered under private healthcare insurance?

Some private health insurance companies cover the cost however please check with your provider.

What does NICE recommend?

Please see the latest NICE guidelines here surrounding the use of ESWT.

Treatment Overview

Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Average procedure duration 30 mins

  • Covered by health insurance? Yes

  • Can I pay privately? Yes

You’re in safe hands at Sulis Hospital.

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