March 21, 2023
Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) is a therapy application of sound waves, high energy ultrasound that is transmitted through the skin to an area of pain or tissue breakdown. The sound wave will initiate a response in the body to try and heal the tissue. This therapy is considered transdermal and completely non-invasive. This idea was initially used to treat kidney stones (lithotripsy). The technology was changed to focus on other orthopedic ailments. We have been using this method for several years. This method has become popular to treat chronic orthopaedic problems as an alternative to failing traditional treatment or nonsurgical treatment is desired.
What are some common injuries we use this for?
There are several pain sources that can be a candidate for shockwave therapy. It’s used throughout the body, but we really focus in and around the lower extremity. You can use it on shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, muscle strains, bursitis, etc. These are the traditional nonsurgical problems that can struggle to respond to bracing and physical therapy methods. This is where shockwave therapy comes in. It can help treat these patients more effectively, while still maintaining activity. In most cases, people can see a percentage of efficacy approaching 60-70%. Most of these problems have research looking at shockwave therapy as a viable option.
What does the treatment look like?
If you undergo shockwave therapy, what should you expect? Typically, it’s done in an outpatient setting in the clinic. You can expect a 15-minute treatment session where a probe (attached to a machine) is applied to the area of pain. It feels like a very quick vibratory sensation, almost like a mildly discomforting massage. This process is applying sound wave pressure to the area at a very rapid pace. The goal is to try and instill some sort of blood flow response to the underlying soft tissue. It’s helpful in this setting because it’s dynamic. In other words, the patient can talk to the provider about their pain and where it’s bothering them. The probe can be altered while the treatment is given.
There’s no requisite for a boot or a pain-relieving injection. In fact, most patients will walk out of clinic and leave with relatively minimal pain or less pain than what they came in with. The minimal application of the treatment to see long-term efficacy is three to four sessions, one week apart. If the pain continues to improve, but has not reached maximum improvement, then a patient can continue getting treated. In the case that the treatment is not helping whatsoever after three or four weeks, the treatment will be discontinued.
How to Begin…
If you are experiencing chronic pain and you’ve had several options attempted without significant improvement, you may be a candidate for one of these non-surgical, minimally or non-invasive treatments. Common ailments include plantar fascia, Achilles tendon bursitis, and muscle pain. Shockwave therapy is an effective, easy-to-use treatment.
Dr. Miller is Beacon Orthopedics’ foot and ankle specialist and is available at several locations around the Cincinnati area. Contact us today for more information! Click here to learn more and schedule an appointment with Dr. Miller for foot and ankle injuries.