Shock-wave therapy or “lithotripsy” is an electro-medical therapy that uses high-energy acoustic waves. Unlike ultrasound therapy, which generates a sinusoidal waveform, this type of wave form has a pulsating pattern. Shock waves have been used in the medical field for a long time. One of its typical uses is to remove urinary tract stones by destroying the stone from the outside in a non-invasive way, without causing damage to surrounding tissues. In physiotherapy, shock waves are used relatively infrequently because they are particularly effective for a small group of ailments, such as calcific tendinitis, tendinosis and scar tissue. At our centre, a shock-wave cycle can vary from 3 to 5 sessions, administered on a weekly basis depending on the problem to be treated.
How It Works
There are two main actions generated by the emission of shock waves:
- Mechanical: when hitting a solid mass, the wave generates a destructive disruptive energy that can break up the target tissue;
- Cavitation: this phenomenon occurs when the waves pass through aqueous tissue and generate the implosion of gas bubbles dissolved in liquid. These implosions generate an increase in internal pressure.
In addition to the mechanical effects of tissue breakdown, shock waves generate a very important secondary indirect effect: in response to therapy, the body produces new blood vessels. This mechanism is very similar to that of a wound. When a bone is fractured, the body produces bone tissue to re-create the bone’s structure as it was prior to the trauma. This induced creation of new blood vessels is most useful in tissues where vascularisation is physiologically poor and therefore can more frequently lead to suffering. These areas can be found between the bone and tendon tissues.
Ailments that can be treated
Calcific tendinitis, tendinosis, muscular scar tissue, epicondylitis, osteitis pubis, calcaneal spurs, plantar fasciitis, patellar tendinitis and Achilles’ tendinitis.