Managing pain with Shockwave therapy (rESWT). What is shockwave therapy?

Sep 16, 2021

Managing pain with Shockwave therapy (rESWT). What is shockwave therapy?

In this short video, Ben, our Clinical Director, talks you through Shockwave therapy, what it is and when it is used.

“Hi, I’m Ben from The Foot and Ankle Clinic in Darlington, and I’m here today to talk to you about the different types of treatments that we have available at The Foot and Ankle Clinic, because we’re quite different in what we do. So, first of all, I’m going to look at something called Shockwave. Often gets called rESWT for short, because it’s a lot easier than saying it, and it stands for Radial Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy. Bit of a mouthful right. So this piece of kit here is a fantastic state-of-the-art Shockwave system. It is the same system that all of the Premiership football clubs and England rugby team use and it’s used for all the Olympic teams. Basically, it is the top piece of kit that you can have for it. That’s why we’ve got it in.

So, What is shockwave therapy and how does it work?

Little bit of a history lesson for you. The original technology comes from the Second World War and the repercussions of submarines being depth charged. That’s where Shockwave comes from originally, and then it was developed in the 1960s for kidney stones and then developed further and further from there. The machine has a ball bearing inside it that is applied to the skin. When the machine is turned on, the ball bearing fires up and down at a different rate. Now, those rates are changeable and they can be set at something very low, low moving but actually quite high impact. Or it can range right the way down to something at the opposite end of the spectrum.

So what does Shockwave therapy actually do?

Once it’s applied to the skin or the soft tissue, it causes something called a cavitation. As that ball bearing comes up and down and hits the skin, it causes these little shockwaves to move out into the soft tissue. Now, once it does that, it creates a small level of inflammation in that area, and that starts to speed up the healing process and get people out of pain. It does give you a numb sensation after having it done, which if you’ve had discomfort, it’s fantastic.

Longer term, the aim is to get you out of pain and to really speed up the healing process, and it’s particularly useful really, after having a condition such as heel, foot or ankle pain, or eg plantar fasciitis, for six months or more, so in what we would class as a chronic case scenario. So prior to that, it’s effective rate is pretty poor in the acute phase. It’s got to be a longer standing condition before it really does start to kick in and work well. We would use this really alongside the likes of rehabilitation, because rehabilitation is a fantastic program for getting you back to where you need to be, and this helps to speed up the process within that treatment system, to allow you to get out of pain early on in the program and really speed up that process.”