If you’re looking to get treatment with shockwave therapy (regardless of the reason), getting the most out of the treatment process should be a top priority. Doing so will help hasten your recovery while saving you extra time and money with fewer required sessions. Shockwave therapy is effective for treating numerous types of injuries and conditions, and so this article will help you gain some critical insight to ensure that you get faster and further recovery out of your treatments.
To get the most out of your shockwave therapy treatments, you will want to make sure you:
- Understand what caused your injury or condition to occur.
- Know which activities to avoid in between each shockwave therapy session.
- Know which activities or exercises to do in between each shockwave therapy session.
- Utilize other additional interventions to help control, reduce, or eliminate your pain or dysfunction.
If you want to know why these actions are so profoundly beneficial, keep reading the article!
The evidence behind shockwave therapy
Here at Tower Physio, we treat various orthopedic conditions using shockwave therapy in conjunction with other helpful modalities, and there is never any additional cost for receiving shockwave treatment for your therapy.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ECST), often shortened to “shockwave therapy,” is rapidly climbing the ranks as a validated treatment for various types of orthopedic injuries and conditions. Numerous scientific articles have been published validating its effectiveness for various conditions affecting the body’s muscles, joints, tendons, and cartilage.1–4 Some conditions include:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Patellar tendinopathy (Jumper’s knee)
- Lateral epicondylitis of the elbow (AKA “tennis elbow”)
- Calcific tendinosis of the shoulder (rotator cuff disorders)
- Non-union & delayed union of long bone fracture
Want to read up on the geeky, scientific details? Check out this scientific article: Extracorporeal shockwave therapy in musculoskeletal disorders.
If you’re not keen on the scientific details, here’s the basic rundown on how shockwave therapy works:
Shockwave therapy stimulates tissue repair and regeneration through pressure waves that travel through the injured tissues. These pressure waves are responsible for creating the signalling effects that create positive change in unhealthy tissues.
Tower Tip: Shockwave therapy will produce mild discomfort when treating various disorders; however, it shouldn’t be painful. We like to tell our patients that the discomfort should be noticeable yet rather tolerable when receiving treatment.
Why you need to understand your condition
Regardless of the injury or the condition you may be facing, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the cause(s) of your injury or condition. A basic understanding of the nature of your pain or injury helps to make the rehabilitative process much more intuitive in terms of why it may be essential to avoid specific exercises or activities during your recovery while performing others.
As a result, this basic understanding will arm you with knowledge that will make you less likely to incur setbacks, pain flare-ups, or other frustrating circumstances that may delay your recovery. Essentially, you’ll be gaining a powerful foundation for quickly learning how to avoid activities that can delay or adversely affect your recovery process while partaking in helpful ones.
Now, don’t sweat it if you’re not sure why you’re experiencing your pain or condition! The best way to arm yourself with knowledge is to ask your physiotherapist. Asking your physiotherapist (or another healthcare provider) what likely caused your injury or condition is something we encourage here at Tower Physio, as we want our patients to feel confident in their overall treatment process.
Generally speaking, common causes of pain and injury that require shockwave treatment can include:
- Overuse injuries
- Inactivity (a sedentary lifestyle)
- Improper movement mechanics (often termed movement dysfunction)
- Postural imbalances
- Age-related conditions
- Any combination of the above factors
When you gain a basic understanding of your current situation, you essentially gain a road map of what caused your condition to arise, and thus, a road map to keep you on the right path to recovery. Without this road map, it can be as if you’re walking in the dark, simply hoping that you’re moving in the right direction.
Remember: As physiotherapists, we love educating our patients and believe that it is the cornerstone to effective recovery; don’t be afraid of asking questions!
Avoiding the wrong activities
Shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis is very helpful for promoting tissue recovery and helping our fellow Calgarians get back to their regular lives!
Imagine that you have a scrape on your skin that’s attempting to scab over (so that new skin can form), and you pick it off every time the scab starts to form. Doing so will make it very difficult for total skin healing to occur.
The same concept applies to your shockwave treatments; if you continually perform activities that make it difficult for healing to occur within the treated area, the therapy will be less effective — as if you’re taking one step forwards and then one step backwards.
The easiest way to learn and understand what movements, positions, or activities you should avoid is to ask your therapist. Whether you’re getting treated at our clinic or elsewhere, your physical therapist or another allied health professional will have the knowledge required to help inform you.
Common activities that can delay healing with shockwave therapy include:
- Overuse of the injuries tissue(s) (too much of an activity)
- Overexertion of the injured tissue (making it work too hard)
- Inadequate stimulation of the tissues (not making it work enough)
As you can see, it can be a delicate balance between doing enough physical activity to help stimulate the injured area and doing too much, which can delay healing.
This is why it is crucial to work with a physiotherapist or other allied health professional who understands the cause and nature of your condition, as they will be able to help you pick the right types and amounts of activities while ensuring they are done in the correct amounts.
Tower tip: A common education point we often need to address with our patients is the need for therapeutic home exercises between treatment sessions. Shockwave therapy can often be much more effective when combined with an effective therapeutic home exercise program, which we individually tailor for each patient. Read the next section for more information!
Doing more of the right activities
While you’ll want to avoid any activities or movements that make your recovery more difficult, you’ll also want to ensure that you’re performing the right types (and amounts) of physical activities that help encourage the healing of the injured body part to take place.
As before, the best way to determine which activities, exercises, or movements will be most beneficial for your recovery is to ask your physio or healthcare specialist for their professional insight.
The right types (and amounts) of activities will vary based on the underlying condition, the severity of the issue, and other personal factors unique to your situation. Generally speaking, however, helpful interventions can include:
- Gentle strengthening exercises
- Gentle stretching exercises
- Heat or ice to control pain, swelling, or stiffness
- Avoiding sitting still for prolonged periods of time
Again, working with your physio or healthcare professional will help ensure the ideal movements or exercises are being performed.
Using additional treatment interventions
No matter how good a particular therapeutic intervention may be, it can almost always be combined with additional treatment interventions to further enhance a patient’s recovery. While shockwave therapy can be highly beneficial by itself, its therapeutic effects can often be further enhanced with additional treatment interventions.
Think of your recovery like a seed planted in the dirt; the seed (healing) will grow if it’s watered, but it will thrive to a much greater extent if it’s not only watered but also planted within nutrient-rich soil.
In the case of receiving shockwave treatment, additional interventions (either performed on your own or by your treating therapist) will help ensure that your recovery is planted in rich, healthy soil.
The right type(s) of additional intervention(s) will vary greatly based on the type and extent of pain, injury, and overall condition you are experiencing.
- Common helpful additional interventions that we often use here at Tower Physio for shockwave therapy include:
- Prophylactic taping or bracing
- Cryotherapeutic agents such as heat or ice
- Manual therapy techniques
- Dry needling (intramuscular stimulation)
- Electrotherapy stimulation (such as interferential current therapy)
- Laser therapy
- IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization)
Keep in mind that specific interventions can only be performed by a licensed healthcare practitioner. In contrast, others can likely be performed by yourself. You will want to talk with your therapist to ensure any home interventions you perform by yourself are appropriate to do so.
If you’re in the Calgary area, we would be more than happy to help you with your path to recovery. In addition to shockwave therapy, any other treatment interventions performed as part of your therapy do NOT increase the cost of your session; our treatments are a flat fee, and we often use multiple modalities and treatment interventions within a single treatment session.
We know that Albertans, and us fellow Calgarians, are active individuals. Being sidelined or limited in your daily activities or fitness pursuits can be a frustrating experience. Thankfully, shockwave therapy can often be a highly effective treatment intervention. The key is to get the most out of it so that your overall recovery takes fewer treatments, saving you time, money, and frustration.
Start by finding a therapist you feel has your best interests, and then ask them the required questions to ensure you are getting the most out of your rehabilitation process. We hope the tips within this article will point you in the right direction for beginning to make this happen!
1. Wang CJ. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy in musculoskeletal disorders. J Orthop Surg. 2012;7(1):1-8.
2. Dedes V, Stergioulas A, Kipreos G, Dede AM, Mitseas A, Panoutsopoulos GI. Effectiveness and safety of shockwave therapy in tendinopathies. Mater Socio-Medica. 2018;30(2):131.
3. Schmitz C, Császár NB, Milz S, et al. Efficacy and safety of extracorporeal shock wave therapy for orthopedic conditions: a systematic review on studies listed in the PEDro database. Br Med Bull. 2015;116(1):115.
4. Speed C. A systematic review of shockwave therapies in soft tissue conditions: focusing on the evidence. Br J Sports Med. 2014;48(21):1538-1542.