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When is Shockwave Therapy NOT a Good Treatment Option?

Dr. Eman Elmi
December 16, 2022
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Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy is a non-invasive procedure that uses shockwaves to treat musculoskeletal conditions. It does this by increasing blood flow to the affected area. Shockwave therapy has been used in medicine for decades to help with urology issues like breaking up kidney stones. However, it has made its way into orthopedics and physical therapy. 

Shockwave therapy is proven effective at treating the following musculoskeletal conditions:

  • Achilles tendinopathy 
  • Plantar fasciitis 
  • Tennis elbow 
  • Golfers elbow
  • Patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee)
  • Iliotibial band Syndrome (ITBS), or IT band— pain that stretches from the outside of the hip down the outer thigh to the outside of the knee 
  • Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)
  • Bony heel spurs

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure performed in-office. It only takes a few minutes to complete and does not require a hospital stay. Although the treatment is very effective, it’s not recommended for all patients. 

The current recommendation is that shockwave therapy not be used unless the underlying health condition has been present for six months or more. Conservative therapy should be the first line of defense. This includes rest, ice, stretching, and strengthening through physical therapy exercises. Often this treatment performed consistently and over time will relieve the above-mentioned musculoskeletal issues. Medication is often utilized, such as NSAIDs and pain medication. These treatments usually only bring short-term relief.  Corticosteroid injections may also be beneficial for short-term pain relief, as well. If your condition is causing chronic pain after conservative treatment and medication, shock therapy might be an excellent long-term solution.

What Is Shockwave Therapy, And How Does It Work?

Shockwave therapy is also known as Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) or Radial Shockwave Therapy (RSWT). The treatment modality is becoming more mainstream in the orthopedics, podiatry, and physical therapy fields of medicine. So, exactly what is shockwave therapy as it relates to foot and ankle care?

Shockwave therapy involves the delivery of shock waves to injured soft tissue to reduce pain and promote healing. This modality is a targeted therapy that uses low-energy sound waves rather than electrical waves. These waves can easily penetrate the skin and radiate throughout the affected muscle, joint or tendon beneath the surface. When they do, they cause micro damage, or inflammation, to the localized area. This, in turn, improves blood flow to encourage the body to stimulate the repair and reservation of cells. The damaged tissue then begins to repair and heal itself, causing a reduction in pain and other symptoms. 

Can Shockwave Therapy Cause Damage? Who Is At Risk?

Living with chronic pain can be debilitating and interfere with your ability to be physically active and do what you enjoy. This can have a significant impact on the quality of your life. You might be wondering, “can shockwave therapy cause damage?” While it is safe to receive, with little to no side effects, there are contraindications. They include:

  • Pregnancy 
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • If you are taking oral anti-coagulants
  • If you have received a Steroid injection within six weeks
  • If you have a Pacemaker 
  • Open wounds or skin abrasions at the treatment diet.

Shockwave therapy is an innovative non-surgical option for pain in the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For the right candidate, this targeted therapy can provide relief of pain and give you back your mobility. 

Call us if you want to learn about shockwave therapy and how it may help you live pain-free. Diablo Foot and Ankle specialists are standing by. So give us a call to schedule an appointment today.

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