Acoustic Wave Therapy vs Shockwave Therapy

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If you work with patients who suffer from musculoskeletal issues, you may be familiar with pulse wave therapy.

Pulse wave therapy is a type of non-invasive medical treatment that uses sound waves.

The sound waves are delivered through an applicator which is placed directly onto the skin using ultrasound gel as an acoustic medium. This produces low-frequency, high-energy sound waves that penetrate deep into the tissue. Once these sound waves reach the target area, they create pressure waves that help to reduce inflammation and stimulate blood circulation. 

This increased circulation helps to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with different musculoskeletal conditions and improves the body’s natural ability to heal and regenerate tissue. Pulse wave therapy can also be used to help treat soft tissue injuries, chronic pain, and other complaints. It is a safe and effective treatment option for those who are looking for an alternative to surgery and medication for pain relief.

Not all pulse wave therapy is equivalent, however. This type of treatment comes in two variations — acoustic wave therapy and shockwave therapy — which both have different benefits and drawbacks. Read on to learn about the differences between these two treatments and which might be best for your patients.

What Is Acoustic Wave Therapy?

Acoustic wave therapy, also known as radial therapy, uses high-frequency, low-intensity sound waves that do not penetrate far into the body. This makes it the least invasive pulse wave therapy treatment and an ideal choice for people who cannot tolerate more intense treatments. In fact, acoustic wave therapy may be beneficial in promoting relaxation, decreasing stress and tension, and providing a general feeling of wellbeing.

Since these high-frequency sound waves mostly target the surface of the skin, acoustic wave therapy is best used to treat light soft tissue injuries and conditions like plantar fasciitis, bursitis, and tennis elbow — which do not usually affect deep tissue. Acoustic wave therapy can also be used to improve the appearance of cosmetic issues such as light scarring and stretch marks, and to improve erectile dysfunction.

Acoustic wave therapy is most beneficial when used in conjunction with other treatments such as medications and physical therapy. While it can address the root cause of certain conditions rather than simply the symptoms, it doesn’t always solve the entire issue on its own and sometimes must be accompanied by medication and other treatments.

Acoustic wave therapy also requires repeated treatments over a period of time to be effective. Each treatment takes less than 30 minutes, but a patient can need as many as 6-12 treatments to get the best results. It can also take a few days to notice any improvement.

On the bright side, acoustic wave therapy tends to be less expensive than shockwave therapy and has little-to-no side effects.

What Is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy uses high-frequency, high-intensity sound waves that penetrate more deeply than those used in acoustic wave therapy. These waves quickly move through the tissue and create a mechanical force known as a shockwave. 

The force of these waves makes this treatment more effective for hard tissue injuries like bone fractures and conditions such as chronic pain, plantar fasciitis, tendinopathy, bursitis, and shoulder pain, among other conditions. Depending on the case, it can also be used to treat erectile dysfunction.

Like acoustic wave therapy, shockwave therapy can speed the healing process and provide pain relief by targeting the root of certain conditions. Unlike acoustic wave therapy, shockwave therapy can often stand on its own as a treatment, though it can still be used in conjunction with physical therapy and medication when it can’t solve the entire issue on its own.

Shockwave therapy also provides faster results than acoustic wave therapy — often you can see and feel a difference right away. Sometimes multiple treatment sessions are needed for optimal results, but not as many as are required for acoustic wave therapy.

Because shockwave therapy is a more powerful form of treatment, it may carry more risks and side effects, including skin irritation and bruising. As a result, some patients may be ineligible for shockwave therapy, including those with blood-clotting disorders, and those on anticoagulant medications. Those who have pacemakers and those who are pregnant may also be ineligible for this treatment.

Which Option Is Right for Your Patients?

Shockwave therapy and acoustic wave therapy are both non-invasive, same-day treatments that are safe for almost everyone. They can both be enormously beneficial when you want to treat pain and inflammation, improve the blood flow, and speed healing in soft tissues, but the best treatment will depend on the exact nature of each patient’s condition.

If you would like to learn more about how shockwave therapy can help your patients and your practice, contact the specialists at SoftWave. We can tell you more about the technology, its applications, and the research behind it.

At SoftWave, we provide the technology and knowledge you need to offer shockwave therapy to patients with musculoskeletal conditions, soft-tissue injuries, and other painful complaints. If you work with patients who need prompt pain relief or have conditions that are slow to respond to other treatments, this therapy can be a game-changer.

Take the opportunity to specialize in providing non-invasive treatments that are tailored to meet the needs of each individual patient. If you are interested in becoming a provider of shockwave therapy, reach out to SoftWave today to start the conversation.

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