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What is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy is a multidisciplinary device used in orthopaedics, physiotherapy, sports medicine, urology and veterinary medicine. Shockwave is an acoustic wave, which carries high energy to damaged tissues in the body with subacute, subchronic and chronic conditions. The energy promotes regeneration and reparative processes of the bones, tendons and other soft tissues. Its main assets are fast pain relief and mobility restoration. It is non invasive, and can greatly speed up recovery and cure various injuries.

How does Shockwave work?

Shockwave therapy treatment works by using acoustic shockwaves to stimulate self-healing of an injured tissue. These shockwaves – which are not electrical but rather sound shockwaves – are administered through a special wand hand piece that dispenses the waves for a brief amount of time directly to the affected injured tissue areas. The pressure from the shockwaves will be transferred to the tissue. As a result, special micro-cavitation bubbles are generated, and these will expand, burst, and produce a force called a resultant force. This goes through the tissue and actually stimulates the cells dealing with connective tissue and bone healing. The waves penetrate the tissues, causing overall medical effects of accelerated tissue repair and cell growth, analgesia and mobility restoration. The following are ways shockwave therapy can help heal an injury.

Chronic inflammation:

After any injury, the body sends inflammation to the site of damage. Chronic inflammation occurs when the inflammatory response is not completely halted. It can damage healthy tissue and results in chronic pain. Mast cells are one of the key components of the inflammatory process. Their activity may be increased by using pervasive acoustic waves. Mast cell activation is followed by the production of chemokines and cytokines. These pro-inflammatory compounds first enhance the inflammatory process and in the next step help restore normal healing and regenerative processes.  This helps reduce inflammation in the tissue, and thus encourages healing.

Collagen Production:

The production of a sufficient amount of collagen is a necessary precondition for the repair processes of the damaged skeletal and ligamentous structures. Shockwave therapy accelerates procollagen synthesis. The therapy forces the newly created collagen fibers into a longitudinal structure, which makes the newly formed tendon fibers more dense and stiff and creates a firmer structure.

Calcification breakdown:

Often with an injury, micro tears remain in the muscle, ligament or tendon. Often, the body lays down calcium in an attempt to heal these micro tears. Acoustic waves can break up these calcifications. Shockwave therapy starts the biochemical decalcification of the calcium build-up of a toothpaste-like consistency and treats the tendon. The granular particles of calcium are then removed by the lymphatic system.

Substance P:

Substance P is a neurotransmitter that mediates pain information through C-fibers. This neuropeptide is generally associated with intense, persistent and chronic pain. It relays pain messages to the central nervous system. Lowering the concentration of Substance P reduces the stimulation of afferent nociceptive fibers and thus reduces the pain. Decreasing Substance P, histamines and other nociceptive metabolites also helps inhibit development of inflammatory edema. Acoustic waves generated by Shockwave therapy lower the Substance P concentration and triggers pain relief.

Trigger Points:

Trigger points can form in muscles after an injury, and are the principal cause of pain in the back, neck, shoulder and limbs. They are associated with palpable nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers and have extremely contracted sarcomeres. The dysfunctional sarcomeres contract so tightly that they begin to cut off their own blood supply. This causes the waste products to build up. Waste product build-up irritates the sensory nerve endings, which then causes even more contraction. This vicious cycle is referred to as “metabolic crisis”. The assumed mechanism of action is that the delivered acoustic energy unblocks the calcium pump and thus reverses the metabolic crisis in the myofilaments and releases the trigger points.

What conditions can Shockwave Therapy treat?

The following are common conditions treated with Shockwave therapy:

ALPHA Health Services offers Shockwave Therapy- to learn more or book an appointment email info@alphahealthservices. ca or call 416 545 1881.

Charlotte Anderson
Registered Physiotherapist
To learn more about Shockwave Therapy at ALPHA, click here