How to prepare, what happens during a session, and recovering afterward
At The Running Physio, our team utilizes several treatment methods. In addition to foundational physiotherapy techniques like therapeutic exercise and manual therapy, we offer various unique modalities to address pain and facilitate recovery. One such modality is shockwave therapy.
The term “shockwave therapy” might sound alarming, and its full name–extracorporeal shockwave therapy–even more so! However, there’s nothing to fear from shockwave therapy, which is a proven, non-invasive method for treating various musculoskeletal conditions, including plantar fasciitis and tendonitis.
Looking at the treatment’s name gives us a hint as to what to expect. “Extracorporeal” simply means “outside of the body,” as the treatment is administered externally. Shockwaves are actually just high-energy sound waves similar to the ones used in ultrasound technology.
If you’re curious about what shockwave therapy at The Running Physio looks like, keep reading to learn more. You can also schedule an appointment to see if it’s the right treatment for you!
What Conditions Can Shockwave Therapy Treat?
Shockwave therapy was originally used for treating kidney stones, and shockwave lithotripsy, which breaks up the stone into smaller pieces, is still one of the most popular methods for treating the condition today.
However, research eventually showed that shockwave therapy also addresses musculoskeletal issues, including healing bone fractures or slowing the development of osteoarthritis. However, it’s most commonly used to manage tendon and soft tissue injuries of the sort that often plague athletes, including the following:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendinopathy (heel pain)
- Patella tendinopathy (knee pain)
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Tendinopathies affecting the hip
- Elbow tendinopathies (such as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow)
While shockwave therapy is safe, it’s not appropriate for every person or every condition. Pregnant women, people with pacemakers or similar devices, or people with blood clotting disorders are better suited for other treatment options.
Understanding Your Shockwave Therapy Appointment
The first step for any shockwave therapy procedure is a comprehensive exam by one of our physiotherapists to determine if the treatment is appropriate for your needs. We’ll examine your medical history, look at your specific symptoms, and conduct a series of movement screens to help us fully understand your condition.
Once your physiotherapist has approved you for the treatment, we can get started. There’s nothing you need to do to prepare beforehand, and the procedure is relatively simple.
We’ll begin by identifying the treatment area (basically, wherever you’re experiencing pain) and applying a gel to your skin there, similar to what happens during an ultrasound. The gel ensures the shockwaves effectively transfer to your body without losing energy.
The therapist will then use a wand to deliver the shockwaves to the affected area by waving the wand over your skin. The shockwaves work by causing controlled microtrauma to your soft tissue. The body, in turn, responds to this microtrauma by sending more blood to the area, facilitating your body’s natural healing process.
For most people, this process occurs with little to no discomfort. However, the discomfort or pain you experience will depend on various factors, including your body’s natural pain tolerance. If you feel intense discomfort during the procedure, our therapists can adjust the shockwave output to a more comfortable level.
The entire shockwave therapy procedure should take 15-30 minutes, although most people will need multiple sessions, usually once a week for 3-6 weeks, in order to see results. Once the procedure is completed, you can resume most activities immediately. Some people experience temporary side effects like soreness or swelling, but those typically resolve on their own within a few days.
That said, our therapists will give you personalized post-session instructions based on your needs. For example, if you’re an athlete, we may recommend not performing strenuous activities or high-impact workouts that could risk re-injury.
Is Shockwave Therapy Right For You? Call Us to Find Out!
Shockwave therapy is an excellent method of addressing soft tissue injuries. A few simple sessions can help reduce pain and facilitate your recovery, allowing you to get back to the activities you love the most!
If you’re dealing with tendinopathy or similar joint pain, request an appointment with The Running Physio in Toronto, ON to learn if shockwave therapy is the right choice for you!