Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy

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Dealing with pain can be incredibly frustrating, especially when OTC pain medications don’t help much but surgery isn’t a viable option. Whether you have a torn rotator cuff or plantar fasciitis, extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) may be a great option to provide lasting relief and help facilitate the healing process. So what is ESWT and how does it work? Read on to learn more.

What is extracorporeal shock wave therapy?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is a medical procedure that utilizes high-energy sound waves to promote healing and alleviate pain in musculoskeletal conditions. Initially developed for treating kidney stones, ESWT has emerged as a non-invasive approach for orthopedic and sports-related injuries like tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and shoulder calcific tendinitis. By transmitting shock waves through the skin to the targeted area, ESWT stimulates cellular activity, enhances blood flow, and facilitates tissue regeneration. It has proven to be a safe and effective alternative to surgery, providing patients with a non-surgical option for certain musculoskeletal disorders. However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional to determine the suitability of ESWT for individual cases, as its applicability may vary.

What is the difference between ESWT and shock wave therapy?

The terms extracorporeal shock wave therapy and shock wave therapy are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between them. ESWT refers specifically to the application of shock waves in a medical context, targeting musculoskeletal conditions for healing and pain relief. On the other hand, shock wave therapy is a broader term that encompasses various applications of shock waves, including medical, cosmetic, and industrial uses. 

While ESWT focuses on the therapeutic benefits of shock waves in treating specific conditions, shock wave therapy can also refer to other non-medical uses, such as enhancing the efficiency of industrial processes. It’s important to note that when discussing ESWT in a medical context, it specifically refers to the treatment modality for certain disorders. 

What is extracorporeal shock wave therapy used for?

As mentioned, ESWT is utilized in the treatment of various musculoskeletal conditions. Here are some examples of conditions that can be treated with ESWT.

  • Plantar Fasciitis: ESWT can help alleviate pain and promote healing in the plantar fascia, a ligament in the foot responsible for supporting the arch.
  • Tendinopathies: ESWT has shown effectiveness in treating various tendinopathies, including Achilles tendinopathy, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis).
  • Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s Knee): ESWT has been used to address the chronic pain and inflammation associated with patellar tendinopathy.
  • Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome: ESWT may provide relief for individuals experiencing pain in the hip and buttock area caused by greater trochanteric pain syndrome.
  • Stress Fractures: ESWT can aid in the healing of stress fractures by stimulating bone regeneration and reducing pain.
  • Non-Healing Wounds: In some cases, ESWT has been utilized to enhance wound healing and promote tissue regeneration in chronic or non-healing wounds.

What are the benefits of extracorporeal shock wave therapy?

There are numerous potential benefits for treating musculoskeletal conditions with ESWT, including: 

  • Non-invasive. ESWT does not require surgery, reducing the risks associated with surgery and minimizing the recovery time.
  • Effective pain relief. It targets the pain source and reduces the reliance on medications.
  • Tissue regeneration. ESWT stimulates cellular activity and promotes tissue regeneration by improving blood flow and encouraging new tissue growth.
  • Improved function. By reducing pain and inflammation and promoting healing, ESWT can lead to improved functional outcomes. Patients may experience increased range of motion, improved mobility, and enhanced overall physical function.
  • Non-pharmacological. This is an effective treatment option for those wanting to minimize medication use.
  • Quick and convenient. Sessions can be performed on an outpatient basis, which means minimal disruption to daily activities and reduced time commitments for patients. 
  • Potential alternative to surgery. ESWT can be considered as an initial treatment option, allowing patients to explore non-surgical avenues before considering more invasive procedures.

Is extracorporeal shock wave therapy painful?

Although there may be some slight discomfort, the overall experience is not usually painful. ESWT typically involves the following steps: 

  • The patient will be positioned comfortably, and a gel or coupling agent will be applied to the treatment area to enhance the transmission of shock waves. 
  • The healthcare professional will then use a handheld device to administer the shock waves to the targeted area, which may cause a sensation of pressure or mild discomfort during the treatment session. 

The intensity can be adjusted based on individual tolerance levels to ensure a tolerable experience. While some patients may experience temporary soreness or mild pain following the procedure, ESWT is generally well-tolerated, and any discomfort usually subsides within a few days. It’s essential to communicate any concerns or discomfort to the healthcare provider during the treatment session to ensure the best possible experience.

Does extracorporeal shock wave therapy actually work?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy has been studied extensively and has shown positive results in various clinical trials and research studies. Numerous patients have reported notable pain reduction and improved functional outcomes following ESWT treatment. However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of ESWT can vary depending on factors like the specific condition, its severity, and individual patient characteristics. 

How much does ESWT cost?

The cost of ESWT can vary depending on several factors like geographical location, the specific healthcare provider or clinic offering the treatment, the number of sessions required, and any additional services or procedures included in the treatment package. Generally, ESWT is considered a medical procedure and may be covered by health insurance in some cases, particularly if it is deemed medically necessary. 

However, coverage policies can vary, and it is important to check with the insurance provider to determine the extent of coverage. For those without insurance coverage or for elective treatments, the out-of-pocket cost of ESWT can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars per session. It is advisable to discuss the cost with the healthcare provider or clinic beforehand to obtain a clear understanding of the expenses involved and explore any available financing options or payment plans.

Where can I receive extracorporeal shock wave therapy?

ESWT can be obtained from various healthcare providers, including orthopedic clinics, sports medicine centers, and physical therapist practices. Use the SoftWave directory to find a provider near you. This tool can help you locate qualified professionals who offer ESWT services and guide you in finding the most suitable provider for your needs.

ESWT from SoftWave

SoftWave uses an extracorporeal shock wave therapy machine that offers unfocused or broad focused shock waves and versatile treatment parameters to help you experience the results and pain relief you deserve. With patient comfort features, non-invasiveness, and clinical efficacy as top priorities, SoftWave’s superior physics and design makes it a preferred choice for effective and comfortable ESWT treatments. 

If you are interested in providing ESWT treatment at your clinic or office, SoftWave can help you become a provider.

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