Shock waves and the relevant Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT), entered the medical field at the end of the last century for the treatment of kidney stones by fragmentation. The technique takes advantage of the high energy concentration of specific types of acoustic waves, which have particular internationally accredited properties (DIGEST), and their rapid transmission over long distances to help repair soft biological tissues, bones and derma. ESWT is also used in veterinary medicine.
Based on the physical principles of sound transmission, reflection and absorption, the shock waves propagate variably depending on the compactness of the tissue serving as a diffusion medium.
Although the specific details relating to how waves function are relatively complex and still being unravelled, the rapid benefits and various therapeutic applications of this treatment have been widely experimented with and the effective uses of the therapy have increased.
Shockwave therapy: applications
Shockwave therapy applications do not tend to be invasive and generally see a resolution within a few sessions aimed at achieving a localised radiotherapeutic “targeting” with respect to the area concerned.
The initial use of this therapy in the orthopaedic field, especially in cases of difficulties relating to bone settling resulting from femoral or tibial fractures, has seen the extended application of shockwave therapy to an increasing number of pathologies. Among these, clinical conditions relating to tendons (tendinopathies), like the Achilles tendon, inflammations of the plantar fascia, the hand condition known as Dupuytren’s disease, residual calcified formations due to inadequate interventions on muscle lesions. These problems are often difficult to resolve with other types of treatments. The application of ESWT continues to undergo expansion into areas such as implant dentistry, dermatology, urology and the treatment of skin ulcers.
Additional uses of shockwave therapy are currently being tested, most notably the application of this treatment to stimulate parts of the damaged heart muscle after a heart attack.
Shockwave therapy: benefits
Shockwave therapy is associated with a number of qualities that render it very beneficial to the patient. In addition to the limited number of interventions typically needed, as already mentioned, as well as the speed with which the related beneficial effects manifest themselves, there are several other elements to keep in mind. First and foremost, the targeted nature of the application facilitate its use as part of more extensive treatment plans and in conjunction with other physiotherapy programmes, so as to optimise the joint results of different methodologies. Moreover, the use of acoustic waves limits the consumption of drugs and, consequently, the risk of undesirable side effects, which are almost entirely absent in the therapy in question. Finally, the use of shockwave treatments helps to greatly reduce the need for surgery, a highly beneficial aspect.