What Everybody Ought to Know About Shockwave Therapy

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Image credit: www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/Jeff_Penner

What is shockwave therapy?

Shockwave therapy is a type of non-surgical treatment that involves applying acoustic waveforms or “shockwaves” to treat muscle and bone conditions. With the use of these shockwaves, a healing response is generated that speeds up the repair and recovery of the damaged tissues.

This type of treatment is commonly used by an orthopedic doctor or a sports podiatrist Melbourne because it’s non-invasive and doesn’t require a prescription of painkillers.

Shockwave therapy is also used in physiotherapy, veterinary, urology and other medical fields that concern musculoskeletal conditions.

Benefits of shockwave therapy

1. It speeds up the healing process

In all kinds of injuries, steady blood flow is needed for the repair of the damaged tissues. What shockwave therapy does is that it allows the arterioles in tendons and bones to be remodelled and it stimulates the growth of new ones, too. The newly formed blood vessels will then improve the supply of oxygen throughout the body, thus, promoting a faster recovery.

2. It reverses chronic information

Not all inflammations are bad. That’s because inflammation is our body’s natural response when something is not right with our bodies. But when inflammation won’t stop, that’s when you have a problem. That’s what you call chronic inflammation. This non-stop swelling can damage other healthy tissues and can result in intense pains.

So how do shockwaves help?

Shockwave therapy activates mast cells and the production of compounds called chemokines and cytokines. These are pro-inflammatory compounds that promote the normal healing and regenerative process after an inflammatory response. In short, everything will go back to normal.

3. It increases collagen production

Collagen is essential in the processes of repairing damaged ligaments and other bone and muscle structures. What shockwave therapy does is that it improves the procollagen synthesis by forcing the collagen fibres to be denser and stiffer, resulting in a firmer structure.

4. It eases up tensions and other trigger points

Trigger points or “knots” in layman’s terms, is one of the main causes of pain in the neck, shoulders, back, limbs or other parts of the body. These points are normally found in areas near the injury or the damaged tissue. With the help of shockwaves, the tension in these trigger points is reduced until the size of those knots become smaller.

5. It triggers pain relief

Whenever you experience physical pain, you have “Substance P” to blame. Substance P is a neurotransmitter that relays the pain information to your central nervous system. It basically tells your brain that you are aching somewhere in your body. To eliminate the pain, you have to lower the concentration of this Substance P. And the acoustic waves produced by shockwave therapy does exactly that. Once the Substance P is reduced, pain relief ensues.

Conditions that shockwave therapy can treat

Shockwave therapy is used by different kinds of doctors to treat several medical conditions which involve the muscles and bones. Below are only some of them:

  • Plantar fasciitis: It’s the inflammation of your plantar fascia. If you’re not familiar, it’s the ligament band that bridges your heel and forefoot. The role of this ligament is to maintain the arch of your foot. Once the inflammation happens, you will experience a world of pain in your heels.
  • Heel spurs: It’s a foot condition that is characterized by the bony-like growth called calcium deposit that’s found between your heel bone and arch. They normally cause pain, inflammation, and swelling of your heel. But sometimes heel spurs also don’t cause pain so they can be difficult to detect.
  • Ankle sprain: This condition is normally caused by sports injuries like snapping your ligaments. But you don’t have to be an elite athlete to experience this. Whether you just rolled your ankle badly or have weak muscles running alongside the ankle, you can get down with an ankle sprain.
  • Knee pain: There are also several causes of knee pain such as ruptured ligaments and cartilages. To treat this, sometimes you have to undergo surgical repair and physical therapy. But depending on the intensity of the pain and what causes it, your doctor will decide which treatment is right for you.
  • Achilles tendinopathy: It’s a condition that is characterized by the degeneration of the collagen protein that builds upon the tendon. It normally causes pain, swelling and stiffness of the Achilles tendon. Some people mistake it for Achilles tendonitis, but they’re not interchangeable. Achilles tendonitis is simply the inflammation of the tendon. 
  • Tibialis posterior tendon dysfunction: this condition is the most common problem in the foot and ankle. This happens when the posterior tibial tendon is inflamed or torn. This tendon is one of the most important tendons of the leg since it attaches the calf muscles to the bones on the inside of the foot. It provides support to the arch while walking. When injured, it may not be able to provide the stability that your foot needs.

Is shockwave therapy painful?

When undergoing shockwave therapy, you might feel a little uncomfortable. And yes, sometimes painful. On a scale of 1-10, ten being the most painful, doctors normally aim for 6 or 7. Sometimes they will have to increase the intensity of the therapy just to trigger a response. So expect higher levels of pain if you undertake this therapy. Don’t worry, you’ll become used to it.

What will you feel after a session?

Normally, patients experience lesser pain after undertaking shockwave therapy. Which is the very aim of the therapy itself, to trigger pain relief. You also have to expect some discomfort after a few hours which can last up to 24-48 hours. But don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. You can simply manage this discomfort by using ice packs. Keep in mind that you have to refrain from doing any kind of physical activity after treatment and for the next 24 hours.

Before undergoing therapy, tell your doctor if you are…

  • Pregnant
  • Have a cardiac pacemaker
  • Currently undergoing treatment for cancer
  • Have a blood clotting disorder
  • Under medication for blood thinning
  • Have had a corticosteroid injection within the last 3 months

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