Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) is effective for all musculo-skeletal problems even when other therapies have proved ineffective. ESWT uses a series of high energy shockwaves applied to the area that needs treatment. The shockwave is delivered to the tissue via a compressed air impulse exerted by the hand piece of the machine. The treatment then initiates an inflammation-like condition in the tissue that is being treated. The body responds by increasing the blood circulation and metabolism at the treatment area which in turn accelerates the body’s own healing processes. The shockwaves break down injured tissue and calcifications.

Shockwave offers several advantages over more interventional procedures:

  • No anaesthesia is required and you can continue usual activities
  • ESWT is non-invasive-no surgery or other therapy is required
  • Fast treatment-approximately 20 minutes per session, 3-4 sessions required
  • Fewer complications post treatment
  • Reported side effects are minimal
  • Significant clinical benefit can often be seen 6-8 weeks after treatment

What does Shockwave Therapy involve?

Prior to a beginning your course of Shockwave treatments, you will need either an ultrasound or MRI scan (depending on the area), to ascertain your suitability for treatment. The recommendation to proceed to shockwave therapy will be made by a Consultant Radiologist following discussion with your Consultant or referrer. A course of three appointments are required, with a break of one week between each appointment.

Contraindications and Precautions

Before embarking on Shockwave treatment there are some things that you should be aware of:

  • If you have a cardiac pacemaker please tell us prior to treatment as Shockwave Therapy may interfere with this
  • Cortisone injections should not be administered within 11 weeks prior to any Shockwave treatment
  • Please tell us if you are on Warfarin or other anti-coagulant therapy, as Shockwave Therapy can cause some local bruising and bleeding in the treated tissues
  • If you have been diagnosed with cancer you should notify your clinician as Shockwave Therapy would not be appropriate
  • If you are pregnant Shockwave Therapy should not be administered

What happens during the treatment?

You will be positioned on the examination couch and the Consultant will locate the pain by palpation and feedback from you. The area to be treated may be marked for accuracy and a gel is applied to the skin to optimise the contact between the Shockwave applicator and the treatment area. The hand piece delivers shockwaves to the area for just a few minutes depending on what is required.

Sometimes the treatment can be slightly uncomfortable, but if you are in too much pain please tell the Consultant straight away.

What should I expect after the treatment?

You will normally experience a reduced level of pain or no pain at all immediately after the treatment, but a mild and diffuse pain can occur a few hours later. This dull pain can last for a day or two.

Shockwave Therapy initiates a pro-inflammatory condition in the tissue that is being treated. If necessary you may take non-prescription pain killers such as Paracetamol, but do not take anti-inflammatory medication. Do not put ice on the treated area as this interferes with the body’s self-healing abilities.

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