What is Shockwave Therapy and should I consider it as a treatment option?
We make it a consistent habit at Bellevue Podiatry to review the latest research literature – this lead us to take a close look at Shockwave Therapy as an effective treatment option for Plantar Fasciitis and other chronic tendinopathies.
If you haven’t heard of Shockwave Therapy, and have tried other conventional treatments for your chronic heel pain or Achilles tendinopathy without success, please read on and let us explain what Shockwave Therapy is, how it works, and what injuries and aliments it has shown to be effectively treat.
What is Shockwave Therapy and how does it work?
As the name suggests, Shockwave Therapy uses a patented technology to generate acoustic shock waves of pressure that can be applied to various injuries and aliments to trigger the body’s natural healing processes. A number of clinical studies have shown Shockwave Therapy can provide the following benefits:
- New blood vessel formation: The application of acoustic shockwaves waves creates capillary micro-ruptures in the tendon and bone which in turns triggers the body’s natural healing processes. These healing process create new blood vessels that improve blood supply and oxygenation of the treated area and support faster healing.
- Reversal of chronic inflammation: Mast cells play a crucial role in the healing process, and clinical studies have shown Shockwave treatments trigger mast cell activation which in turn triggers the body’s healing and regenerative processes that lead to a reversal of inflammation.
- Stimulation of collagen production: The production of a sufficient amount of collagen is a necessary pre-condition for the body’s repair processes to be effective – clinical studies have shown shockwave therapy accelerates procollagen production.
- Breaking down calcium build-up: Calcium build-up is most often a result of micro-tears or other trauma to a tendon. Shockwave therapy starts the decalcification of the calcium build-up and the granular particles of calcium are then removed by the lymphatic system.
- Pain reduction: If you lower the concentration of pain neurotransmitters in the injured area you reduce the pain felt. Clinical studies have shown that acoustic waves generated by Shockwave therapy lower the pain neurotransmitter concentration and trigger pain relief.
What injuries and aliments does Shockwave Therapy work on?
Shockwave Therapy is used to treat injuries and aliments all over the body – from calcifications in the shoulder, to tennis elbows, to hip pain and more. However, for obvious reasons, at Bellevue Podiatry we are interested in what foot & ankle injuries Shockwave Therapy has been shown to effectively treat through clinical studies. We discovered the growing body of evidence shows Shockwave Therapy can be an effective treatment option for:
- Heel Spurs / Plantar Fasciitis: Calcium deposits on the underside of the heel bone (heel spur) is closely associated with scarring or inflammation of the plantar fascia (plantar fasciitis). Shockwave therapy treats both of the problems simultaneously. In one clinical study, acoustic waves were responsible for faster recovery and return to daily routine with long-lasting effects in up to 88% of the patients.
- Chronic Achilles Tendinopathies: Cumulated micro-traumas from repetitive overloading can result in chronic tendinopathy. Both inflammation of the tendon and damage on the cellular level are successfully treated with Shockwave. In one clinical study, it was reported over 75% of patients were “very satisfied” with the results of Shockwave Therapy on their Achilles Tendinopathies.
Should I look further into Shockwave Therapy as a treatment for my heel pain or Achilles tendinopathy?
As we mentioned at the start of this blog, Shockwave Therapy can be an effective treatment option where other conventional treatments have been tried unsuccessfully. If you are at a stage where surgery has been recommended, we would recommend you investigate Shockwave Therapy first before considering surgery as a last resort – it could save you a trip to the operating theatre.
It is important to keep in mind that Shockwave Therapy is used primarily for chronic heel pain or Achilles Tendinopathies, so you would need to consult with an experienced Podiatrist and seek their professional advice on when Shockwave Therapy would be appropriate for you to consider. You wouldn’t typically try Shockwave Therapy without first confirming if other conventional treatment options weren’t effective.
If you think you may be a suitable candidate for Shockwave Therapy after reading this blog (or if you have any further questions about it), please give our Reception a call on (03) 9457 2336 and we will get your details so one of our experienced Podiatrists can call you back and answer your questions and provide more details.
- Wang, C. J., Wang, F. S., Yang, K, D., Biological mechanism of musculoskeletal shockwaves. ISMST Newsletter, 2006, 1 (I), 5-11
- Am J Sports Med November, Radial Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Is Safe and Effective in the Treatment of Chronic Recalcitrant Plantar Fasciitis, 2008 vol. 36 no. 11 2100-2109
- 16th International Congress of the International Society for Medical Shockwave Treatment, Extracorporeal Radial Shockwave Therapy for the Treatment of Achilles Tendinopathies, 2013