What does shockwave therapy do?

The key benefits of shockwave treatment are fast pain relief and mobility restoration.
shockwave therapy on shin

Shockwave therapy is a device designed to treat chronic pain and a range of musculoskeletal disorders. It is used across multiple disciplines including podiatry, sports medicine, and physiotherapy. Originally used for the treatment of kidney stones in the 1980s, the key benefits of shockwave treatment are fast pain relief and mobility restoration. Shockwave therapy is a non invasive therapy that effectively stimulates the body’s intrinsic repair mechanisms to restore normal tissue and heal injured tissue. It has been found to be an effective treatment for tendon injuries and orthopaedic conditions.

This blog post will answer common questions regarding shockwave therapy treatment including:

  • What can shockwave therapy treat?
  • How does shockwave therapy work?
  • What can I expect in a shockwave treatment session?
  • How many sessions of shockwave therapy will I need?

What can shockwave therapy treat?

Shockwave therapy can treat a number of painful indications such as:

Jumper’s knee

Jumpers knee is commonly experienced by athletes and can be detrimental to one’s ability to partake in a particular sport. It occurs when the patellar tendon is inflamed or injured and can cause pain, tenderness, and functional deficit. Shockwave therapy sessions work to relieve pain associated with the affected area.

Painful shoulder

Pain in the shoulder can be caused by calcifications, impingement syndrome, or frozen shoulder. All indications are a source of dull to severe pain and patients suffering may be limited in their daily life. Shockwave therapy can reduce pain and repair shoulder function, and in many cases be used as a fit substitute for surgery or injections.

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is a common condition amongst the general population, occurring most frequently in adults aged 30-50 years old. Shockwave sessions can provide significant pain reduction and improve function. It is an effective alternative to steroid injections.

Heel spur

Plantar fasciitis occurs when calcium deposits on the underside of the heel spur and causes scarring or inflammation of the planta fascia. Pain in the heel spur can restrict an individual from daily activities. Shockwave can provide treatment for both heel spurs and chronic plantar fasciitis by relieving pain.

Insertional pain

Pain in muscle insertions occurs when repetitive or prolonged activity places strain on particular tendons. Shockwave therapy for insertional pain can promote blood flow and accelerate healing.

Chronic tendinopathy

Chronic tendinopathies such as Achilles tendinopathy or plantar fasciitis, are cumulated microtraumas due to repetitive overloading. Inflammation of the tendon and cellular damage are able to be treated with shockwave therapy.

Medial tibial stress syndrome

Commonly known as shin splints, medial tibial stress syndrome occurs when physical activities place large amounts of stress on the tibialis anterior muscle. These activities include speed walking or running downhill or uphill on hard or uneven surfaces, and sporting activity. Patients experiencing shin splints are typically restricted from such activities for a period of time. With shockwave therapy treatment, this rest period is significantly shorter.


Calcifying tendonitis is a chronic pain disorder that involves calcifications in rotator cuff tendons. This condition can cause pain and limit movement. Shockwave therapy is an effective treatment for calcifications as the transmitted acoustic waves cause disruption of the calcified entities and support the body’s resorption and elimination of them.

Hip pain

Over time, muscles, cartilage, and tendons in the hip can wear down as a result of overuse. Shockwave therapy can enhance the healing process, fight inflammation, and eliminate any pain or tenderness.

How does shockwave therapy work?

Shockwave therapies are also referred to as Acoustic Wave Therapy or ExtraCorporeal Shockwave Therapy or EPSWTS. Shockwave therapy uses sound waves as a stimulus for the body to heal damaged tissues and release contracted, stiffened and reduced muscles tissues. Shockwave therapy is widely used in professional sports teams, in horses and in other fields e.g. wounds or cardiovascular therapy. Shockwave Therapies are non-invasive therapies and activate cellular regeneration of damaged tissue by restoring normal tissue and healing it.

Shockwave emits acoustic waves which carry high energy to painful spots and damaged tissue with subacute, subchronic, and chronic conditions. The energy carried by the acoustic waves promote regeneration and reparative processes of the bones, tendons, and other soft tissues.

The wave is created through kinetic energy, generated by compressed air. It is then transferred to the transmitter at the end of the applicator and further into the tissue.

Radial shock wave therapy works best when incorporated with a broader rehabilitation plan. Strengthening exercises and other tendon rehab treatments can be used in conjunction with shockwave treatments for long term results.

What can I expect in a shockwave treatment session?

For the first session, your physiotherapist will begin by locating and assessing the area requiring treatment. Upon this, gel will be applied to the treatment area to allow for better transmission of the sound waves. Finally, using the hand-held shock wave device, your physio will apply it to the painful area, and treatment will commence.

The treatment typically lasts for 5-15 minutes. If you become uncomfortable or sore throughout the treatment session, let your physiotherapist know so they can reduce the intensity.

How many sessions of shockwave therapy will I need?

The number of treatment sessions required for your condition, will depend on the severity of the injury, and how your tissue responds to the therapy. Shockwave therapy is a cumulative treatment, and multiple sessions may be required in order to yield maximal results. However, clinical studies show that most patients experience some form of pain relief after the first treatment, and a significant decrease in pain following the second or third.


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