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Shockwave Therapy: Fast-Tracking Your Recovery.

When it comes to rehabilitation, no two injuries are the same, not even for the same person.  Each journey is unique and is influenced by many factors.  While sometimes these influencing factors work in your favour, at other times it can feel as though they are very much against you, resulting in more persistent symptoms; causing concern and frustration. In these sorts of scenarios, you may want reassurance that there are further treatment options for you to give you hope of a full recovery.

One such option is extracorporeal, or radial shockwave therapy, and if you’ve paid us a visit in recent times, you may have noticed our latest addition to the Physio HQ team: our very own radial shockwave machine. It’s an exciting piece of equipment that has been used in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions for decades and it might just be that next step for those that have been dealing with a stubborn injury.

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy was initially used in the treatment of kidney and gall stones, and shortly after, made its way into the realm of physiotherapy, being utilised as a non-invasive treatment method for calcific tendinitis.  Since then, research providing commentary on its use has expanded and it is now being used to treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal complaints that we see in the clinic.  These include Patella and Achilles tendinopathy, plantar heel pain, greater trochanteric pain syndrome, ITB syndrome, tennis and golfers’ elbow and other recurrent muscular complaints. 

The method of treatment is rather unique.  It involves delivering a series of shocks to the target area with a small handheld device.  As the shocks are delivered at the surface of the skin, a series of sound waves are formed and travel to deeper tissues of the body. On a practical level, this can be quite an uncomfortable process, particularly if treating more superficial injuries or injuries that are located close to bony attachments.  During a treatment session, your physiotherapist can alter the speed and amplitude of the shocks to ensure that treatment is within your tolerance.

Despite the uncomfortable nature of the treatment, most patients (compulsory pun incoming) may be shocked by its quick, pain-relieving effects.  There are various biological factors at play here:

1) Hyperstimulation analgesia, which involves repeated stimulation of nerves supplying the injured area, reducing their activity over time. 

2) Altering substance P release, a chemical messenger involved in transmitting pain signals throughout the body.  Altering substance P diminishes pain signals sent to the central nervous system, providing relief and increasing comfort.

In addition to its pain-relieving effects, shockwave therapy stimulates tissue regeneration and repair.  This is through the release of growth factors, increasing cell activity and blood flow to the injured area. A combination of these mechanisms leads to increased tissue resilience and long-term symptom improvement.   

Here are some answers to our commonly asked questions:

How long does the treatment take?  For most injuries, approximately 2000 shocks are delivered over a period of 5-10 minutes.  In clinic, this would make up part of your physiotherapy appointment, and we would often look to implement some of our other treatment strategies within the same session.

When will I start to notice improvement?  Pain responses can almost be felt immediately.  Physical improvements such as tissue adaptation usually occur after three to six treatments depending on the injury.  We usually recommend having these treatments weekly.

Do I need to rest after treatment? As mentioned above, patients will often note quick relief of their pain and as such are able to return to physical activity shortly after the procedure, even on the same day.

How can I best prepare for the appointment?  Please ensure you wear appropriate clothing so that the injured area is accessible.  No other specific preparation is required. 

If you would like to find out more about our newest team member, why not have a chat with one of our friendly physiotherapists next time you are in the clinic.  We’re all excited to utilise this new piece of equipment as part of our treatment toolkit and look forward to answering any questions that you might have.


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