Whether you’re a full-time athlete, an amateur athlete, or an avid sports fan, injuries happen to the best of us — that’s just part of being human. When you put your muscles under constant strain, there’s always a risk of overexertion.
The reality of injury is all-the-more real when you neglect rest days, adequate stretching, and nourishing your body well. According to Johns Hopkin’s Medicine, the most common sports injuries involve muscles, ligaments, and tendons and include sprains, strains, fractures, and dislocations.
This is where shockwave therapy can make all-the-difference in your recovery from an injury — you don’t need to undergo surgery that could set you back months. Learn more about this non-invasive form of treatment in this blog.
Shockwave Therapy Explained
More formally known as extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), this treatment involves the use of high-energy waves or pulses to heal a particular part of the body that has undergone major strain.
Shockwave therapy treats a myriad of musculoskeletal conditions, although it was first used in the treatment of gallstones and kidney stones for the past few decades.
Research shows that high-energy pulses, or shockwaves, have a promising effect on muscle cells and surrounding tissue with their ability to adapt to mechanical signals. In other words, this form of therapy stimulates and speeds up the natural healing process of injured muscle and other tissues.
Not only this, but shockwave therapy boosts blood circulation in the affected area, which helps to restore mobility. This form of therapy is extracorporeal — meaning it’s performed externally. As such, you don’t need to opt for invasive, expensive, and time-consuming options to heal an injury, such as surgery.
Other Important Benefits
Not only does shockwave therapy show proven benefits in muscle recovery, but it’s also cost-effective. Today, you can buy shockwave therapy devices and keep them at home for the treatment of sports injuries or muscle recovery. Some other notable benefits worth mentioning include:
- Muscle regeneration due to the formation of new blood vessels and improved blood circulation
- Anti-inflammatory effects as a result of a decrease in inflammatory mediators, and an increase in mast cells
- Improved muscle performance as a result of improved levels of collagen production
Not-to-mention the fact that shockwave therapy is brilliant for pain management. Any athlete or sports enthusiast will tell you how debilitating and nagging the pain of an injury can be. Now, you can manage your pain without medication and other expensive or invasive treatments.
Common Conditions Treated With Shockwave Therapy
While sports injuries differ from one person or athlete to the next, there are a few that tend to repeatedly crop up due to overuse and overexertion. Shockwave therapy is a great option for treating these conditions:
1. Rotator Cuff Syndrome
This is a common issue also known as frozen shoulder. It’s a result of chronic inflammation or scarring of the muscles in the capsule that surround your shoulder joint. This inflammation is often a result of shoulder injuries such as tendinitis, bursitis, and rotator cuff injury.
Shockwave therapy helps to decalcify this area of the body, reducing inflammation and pain levels, while improving mobility.
2. Jumper’s Knee (Patellar Tendinitis)
This condition is a result of chronic inflammation in the patellar tendon which connects your tibia — your shin bone, to your patella — your kneecap. It’s extremely important to treat this condition as soon as it crops up, as this type of injury could permanently derail any athlete’s career.
3. Heel Spur (Achilles Tendinitis)
This is a painful condition caused by a calcium deposit that forms on the underside of the heel bone. It can extend as much as an inch from the heel bone and causes major discomfort. This condition is most common with athletes and sports enthusiasts who focus on running and jumping.
A similar condition to this is called plantar fasciitis. It’s yet another debilitating sporting injury that affects the plantar fascia tendon which runs from the heel along the inside edge of the foot.
4. Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
This condition causes inflammation in the tendons that connect your elbow and your forearm. It’s often the result of exertion or overuse of this area — most common in tennis athletes and even amateur players.
But it can also affect those that use the repetitive motion of the arms and wrists for any other sport, i.e. basketball, cricket, baseball, etc.
5. Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
You may know this common condition as shin splints. It’s the result of overexertion or strain to the shin area, brought on by repetitive activity or poor amounts of rest and recovery. Due to a lack of adequate recovery time, the body cannot heal itself like it needs to.
This condition is common amongst athletes and sports fans who do various weight-bearing exercises, such as running — uphill and downhill, or kicking, skipping, and jumping.
6. Hip Pain (Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome)
Hip pain and tightness can be unrelenting amongst athletes and sports fans of all disciplines. This is because the pelvis and hip joints are used for so many different types of movements and forms of exercise.
Some of the most common causes of hip pain include tendon strain, inflammation, the onset of arthritis (which is mostly age-related), and hip fracture. When it comes to athletes, repetitive strain is largely to blame.
Sports that tend to cause hip pain or injury involve turning and twisting at high speed, such as gymnastics, ice-skating, hockey, ice-hockey, and many more.
So, to sum it up, shockwave therapy is a great form of treatment for a range of conditions and muscle/tendon injuries. Generally, shockwave therapy works well on these key areas of the body:
- The Achilles tendon
- The patellar tendon
- The rectus femoris
- The plantar fascia
- The posterior tibial
- The medial epicondyle
- The proximal hamstring origin
- The rotator cuff
- The distal quadriceps
With all of this in mind, when should you consider shockwave therapy after any of the above-mentioned sports injuries? If common, first-line treatment such as rest, ice, heat, or therapeutic exercise just does not make a difference, shockwave therapy is your next alternative.
Depending on the severity of your injury, invasive treatments do not have to be your only option. This includes the likes of surgical debridement, micro-surgery, needle tenotomy, and regenerative medicine. All of which are expensive options, not always guaranteed to work, and can significantly extend your ”down time”.
Shockwave therapy is an economical choice, as well as one that is far less risky and offers very minimal/non-existent side-effects.
What to Expect From Shockwave Therapy
So, you may be wondering, is it painful? Contrary to what the name suggests, you don’t actually undergo any form of ”shocking” with this treatment. Instead, you will feel pulses of energy through the affected area that might tingle or ”zing” at first.
This feeling is not painful, although it may feel unusual when you first begin treatment. You will start off with a low-intensity form of shockwave therapy at first, then build your way up to a higher intensity, depending on what you’re comfortable with.
Before the shockwave applicator touches your skin, gel is applied to the affected area for smooth and efficient shockwave delivery. The applicator is then gently pushed onto the area, which then delivers radial waves to the injured muscles/tendons.
This causes a degree of inflammation in the area. The body then reacts by increasing blood circulation and the metabolism of injured tissue.
This form of treatment is not suitable for certain types of people, including:
- Those with circulatory disorders
- People with prosthesis
- Haemophiliac patients
- Pregnant women
- If you have an open wound near the injury site
- If you have high levels of inflammation in the area already
- If you have a tumor or infection near the affected area
- If you suffer from a nerve disorder
- If you are taking anticoagulants
Once you have undergone therapy, there are a few important tips to follow and a few after-effects that may show up. But none of these effects are debilitating or will affect your day-to-day life.
Bear in mind that shockwave therapy should be accompanied by some other form of rehabilitation program in order to restore 100 percent function to the injured area. This is something you’ll need to discuss with your physiotherapist or an osteopath.
Here are a few tips to follow post-shockwave therapy:
- Try to take at least two days off from exercise after each shockwave treatment — this will help to boost your recovery
- You can still go about your normal day-to-day activities, but try to avoid running, jumping, twisting, or hopping
- Don’t be tempted to use ice packs on the affected area
- Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
While most treatments come with their fair share of side-effects, those associated with shockwave therapy are pretty minimal. However, you can expect mild bruising in the treated area, skin redness, and possible skin irritation.
Convenient and Accessible Shockwave Therapy
Remember that it’s always advisable to get advice from a medical practitioner, such as a physiotherapist or osteopath regarding your sports injury. You want to get their all-clear on the use of shockwave therapy as a form of recommended treatment, first.
If you’re looking for convenient shockwave therapy that you can do in the comfort of your own home, learn more about our therapy protocols and what our instruments can treat.
Get in touch with our team for all your queries regarding our shockwave therapy products.