Extracorporeal radial shock wave therapy (shortened as RSWT) is a revolutionary noninvasive treatment that targets your body’s injured soft tissues to eliminate or lessen pain and stimulate your body’s natural healing and recovery. This type of treatment is relatively new in Singapore, and if you want to learn more about it visit http://www.physioactive.sg/our-services/physiotherapy/shockwave-therapy/.
How was the therapy developed?
Shock waves have been discovered a long time ago, and it wasn’t until the Second World War that its effects on internal tissue were observed. Since then, several experiments have been made to observe the effects of low intensity shock waves on the body. It was observed that shock waves can deliver some side effects on the body’s muscles, fat and connective tissues but leave bone tissue unharmed. Due to this shock waves have been utilized in treatments to target the disintegration of kidney stones without harming the surrounding tissue.
Since then, shockwave therapy has also developed into a physiotherapy procedure that can help relieve pain on injured muscle and tissue and has also helped treat certain health issues like epicondylitis, tendonitis, and heel spurs.
What are the benefits of shockwave therapy?
Modern RSWT is usually used to treat physiological problems of specific areas of the body, which include the following:
- Tendons – Tendonitis can cause pain that may not go away from the usual first line treatments like rest, cold compress, and therapeutic exercises. Other common problems involving tendons include Achilles tendonitis, supraspinatus and tennis elbow, which can be addressed by shockwave therapy.
- Bones –Pain on the bone, especially from an injury, can be treated with shock wave therapy. This will specifically target the bone mass that’s causing the pain and lessen the feeling.
- Muscles – Another common issue that shockwave therapy can fix is muscle pain and spasms. The device will be used to target specific trigger points to reduce the pain or discomfort on your muscles.
- Neurological disorders –Shockwave therapy has shown incredible results when used to treat neurological disorders such as muscle spasticity.
- Connective tissue –Conditions such as plantar fasciitis and trigger finger which affect connective tissue can be treated using shockwave therapy.
Professional sports athletes who have had an injury are some of the most common patients of shockwave therapy due to their tight schedules. A surgery can sideline an athlete for a long period of time and can cause him/her to miss on important games or tournaments.Compare that to shockwave therapy which only really needs a quick recovery period from the procedure, it’s no wonder that many athletes and their managers opt to try shockwave therapy first before committing to a surgical procedure.
Who are eligible for shockwave therapy?
Almost everyone is eligible for the therapy, especially if first line treatments like rest and exercise are not enough to fully address a specific physiological problem. It’s also a good option for those who are not ready to undergo invasive techniques like surgery. However, patients who are pregnant, have a nerve disorder, cancer or a pacemaker are not eligible for the therapy.
Is shockwave therapy painful?
During the therapeutic treatment, there will be some discomfort as the shock waves are being applied into specific parts of your body. This is normal and the discomfort should only be felt while the treatment is going on, and not after it. However, many patients who’ve experienced shockwave therapy say that the shockwaves feel like little pulses that wave through the skin. If you can’t withstand the pain, tell your therapist so that he/she can adjust to make you feel more comfortable.
A session of shockwave therapy is over quick and will not need a long amount of time, so it might be easier to tolerate the discomfort compared to other similar treatments that take longer sessions. To help in reducing your discomfort, it is better to wear loose and comfortable clothes to make the process easier for you.
How does the treatment work?
Shockwave therapy is delivered using a special handheld device that can be used to target specific areas of the patient’s body. The shock waves are delivered directly to the body using this device, which uses compressed air that is converted into low intensity sound waves whose effects can be controlled precisely by the therapist.
These acoustic or sound waves goes through your skin and can penetrate directly into the targeted muscle, tendon or joint. An ultrasound gel will usually be applied on the targeted area to assist in the transmittal of the shock waves.
Once the shock waves reach the targeted muscle, they encourage the flow of blood into it and also causes some slight inflammation. Because of this, you might feel a bit sore after a session but it will also stimulate your body’s natural healing and speed up the recovery. If you have any scar tissue on the targeted area, the shock waves can also break it down to increase your mobility on that area.
Patients are usually advised to undergo at least three sessions of shockwave therapy to experience significant results and increase the success rate of the treatment. This can vary for different situations though, with other patients needing five or more sessions. Your therapist will also assess you each session to monitor how your body is responding to the treatment.
How long is the recovery period from shockwave therapy?
After each session of shockwave therapy, you should be able to go home immediately or even return to work. This is because the treatment is a noninvasive one that has very mild side effects on your body. It can cause some soreness but isn’t usually enough to keep you out of work or your daily activities. However, you should avoid strenuous physical activities like exercise or sports for at least 2 days after the treatment session.
The soreness or discomfort after a session will usually go away in a day or two, however if you are unable to tolerate it you can take some over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol to manage the pain. Overall, the recovery period from the therapy is quite short compared to other treatments.
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