Did you know that ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used electrical fish to reduce pain?
Humans today are lucky to have an array of more effective pain treatments available! At-home self-care, pain medications, and physical therapy are great for managing pain. One of the most innovative treatments available today is shockwave therapy.
Do you or your physiotherapy patients struggle with chronic pain and inflammation? Shockwave therapy may be the perfect solution. This innovative treatment helps people regain control of their pain, health, and happiness.
Keep reading to learn about shockwave therapy benefits, how it works, and more.
What Is Shockwave Therapy?
Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment used in physiotherapy practices. Rapid, high-powered shock waves stimulate the nerves and tissues to quickly relieve chronic pain and heal old injuries.
A shockwave therapy device looks like a large pen or massage gun attached to a control screen. The screen allows the therapist to adjust the frequency and intensity of the shockwaves during the session. The shockwave device delivers pulses into injured or painful tissues to encourage healing and reduce pain.
A typical shockwave therapy session lasts between 10 and 20 minutes. Sessions are usually repeated once weekly or more. Duration depends on the severity and progression of the painful injury.
Shockwave therapy can treat a wide variety of conditions, including:
- Achilles tendonitis
- Plantar fasciitis
- Osgood-Schlatter disease
- Joint and muscle pain
- Neck and back pain
- Hand pain
- Hip pain
As you can see, the possibilities of shockwave therapy are almost endless when it comes to treating painful conditions. The only real limitation of this treatment is some healing time between sessions. Additionally, shockwave therapy will not likely benefit recent or traumatic injuries.
Shockwave Therapy Benefits
There are many health benefits of shockwave therapy. The primary purpose of this treatment is to relieve pain, encourage healing, and improve mobility.
Pain in the musculoskeletal system can be hard to understand and treat. Shockwave therapy is beneficial for many complicated conditions. Some examples of tricky conditions include tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis.
Shockwave therapy does not force the patient to undergo surgeries, injections, or medications. It is an entirely non-invasive option for treating chronic pain, and each session takes less than an hour to complete. Shockwave therapy is an excellent alternative to extensive pain management and surgery.
One of the tremendous benefits of shockwave therapy is that it can be used almost anywhere on the body. Therapists can also address many places during one session.
Shockwave therapy can treat injuries like shin splints and patellar tendonitis. It’s also effective for musculoskeletal conditions like tennis elbow. This treatment not only relieves pain; it also accelerates healing.
Affordable Pain Care
Many surgeries, therapies, and medications are too expensive for the average consumer. An estimated 20.4% of adult Americans live with chronic pain.
Still, not all these people can afford intense and invasive medical care. Shockwave therapy is affordable and effective, and patients won’t need to take time off from work to recover from this treatment.
Fast and Effective Pain Relief
Patients may experience some mild discomfort during shockwave therapy. But the pain-relieving effects are almost instantaneous.
Many people experience noticeable pain improvements shortly after treatment. They can return home or back to work immediately after the session.
While medications can relieve chronic pain, they do not promote long-term healing. Shockwave therapy does more than treat the symptoms associated with a chronic injury. It engages the body’s natural healing processes, effectively preventing pain in the future.
Very Few Side Effects
Surgery is often painful, invasive, and expensive, with a long recovery time. Pain medications can have uncomfortable or risky side effects. Luckily, shockwave therapy is very safe and straightforward.
The most common side effects of shockwave therapy are mild discomfort and bruising. Patients are likely to notice discomfort during the treatment session. Still, this mild pain is acceptable and only lasts a short time.
Patients won’t need to plan for a long recovery as they would with surgery and other treatments.
What Does Shockwave Therapy Do?
Shockwave therapy has a similar effect on the body as working out. When you exercise, you create micro-tears in your muscle cells, which activate an inflammatory response. The inflammatory response causes your body to increase blood flow and focus on healing.
After your workout, your body sends nutrients, oxygen, and white blood cells to the micro-tears in your muscles. They will repair, heal, and nourish the torn muscle tissue and make it stronger than it was before.
When an injury like plantar fasciitis becomes chronic, the body slows down its inflammatory response. The healing process then slows, and the pain can continue for a long time after the initial injury.
Shockwaves essentially reignite the inflammatory response by simulating a new injury. This makes shockwave therapy benefit chronic injuries, but it is not recommended for recent trauma. The injury simulation causes the body to speed up healing through a few key areas.
Engages Cellular Defenses
Shockwave therapy heals the body on a cellular level. Shockwave therapy also activates mast cells. These cells contribute to wound healing by repairing damaged tissues.
Shockwaves cause slight damage to the cell membranes and release free radicals in the body. These free radicals result in more pain-relieving chemicals at the site of inflammation.
When cells are damaged, the body also puts more effort into healing the area, including nutrients and white blood cells. Cell metabolism also speeds up. This results in an accelerated injury healing time and long-term pain relief.
Lowers Substance P
Substance P is the chemical responsible for pain signals in the body. Shockwave therapy lowers the production of substance P. It also stimulates the body’s pain receptors and blocks pain.
Shockwaves also stimulate the nerves and cause them to fire high-frequency impulses. These non-painful impulses essentially drown out the noise of painful impulses.
This is known as the gate control theory of pain. Impulses close the “gate” and prevent pain signals from reaching the nervous system.
Encourages Blood Flow
Blood vessels are a crucial part of the body network. Shockwave therapy increases circulation and encourages new blood vessel growth. This new growth is known as “revascularization.”
Increased blood flow allows the body to deliver nutrients and oxygen and heal cells more efficiently. These materials nurture the chronic injury and help it to heal. New blood vessel growth also speeds up the healing process.
The pulses of shockwave therapy physically break up tiny calcium deposits and scar tissue in the injury. This scar tissue breakdown further stimulates the immune system and allows it to build new, healthy tissues around the injury.
Damaged muscles and ligaments need collagen to heal effectively. Shockwave therapy boosts the production of collagen and helps it travel to the affected area.
Releases Myofascial Tension
Myofascial release is not the goal of shockwave therapy, but it is a beneficial aspect. Myofascial release is the release of “trigger points” in the body. These trigger points are tight, knotted muscles that restrict blood flow, causing pain and reducing mobility.
Shockwave therapy can have a similar effect to a deep tissue massage but is much less painful. While also breaking down scar tissue, the waves release some discomfort and tension in trigger points.
What to Expect from Shockwave Therapy
During a shockwave therapy session, the trained therapist will apply a gel to the affected area of your body. They will then hold the shockwave device against the patient’s body to send shockwaves into the area.
According to many patients, shockwave therapy feels like short pulsations on the skin. The sensation can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially on bony areas like the feet. Any discomfort usually stops shortly after the treatment, which only lasts about 15-20 minutes.
After treatment, the patient can return to their daily activities. They’ll be able to walk to and from the therapy office and return to work or home after the session. Patients should only avoid intense exercise for a few days after treatment.
Deliver Shocking Results
It’s safe to say we’ve come a long way in the history of pain management. Shockwave therapy devices have become a powerful modern-day tool for physiotherapists.
This life-changing treatment doesn’t just help people manage their chronic pain. Shockwave therapy heals their old injuries and restores their quality of life. Ready to experience the shockwave therapy benefits for yourself? Oceanus is proud to offer the latest in wellness technology. Browse our product center to discover our clinical and at-home shockwave therapy options!