Shockwave Explained in Simple Terms…

May 26, 2023


Shockwave treatment has been around since the 1990s. It produces high energy sound waves, which prompt new blood vessel formation to help stimulate local growth factors (we will explain growth factors further on in this blog).

It is effective in treating damaged tissue from an overuse injury. An overuse injury might be, for example suddenly hitting the gym in January with renewed vigour, after the Christmas break – and you over do the workout causing an injury. Or you take up running or intensive walking and instead of slowly building up your fitness levels you start with a 10 mile run or hike and in the process stress your body causing an injury.


Shockwave works by creating the new blood vessels, by doing this it gives the blood the ability to reach the damaged tissue, which in turn accelerates the repair process.

There are 2 methods of shockwave, namely radial and focal.  Both methods of shockwave repair injuries, but they do it in different ways.  The Focal Shockwave machine penetrates deeper into the tissue than the Radial Shockwave Machine.

Radial shockwave uses compressed air, the machine fires a small metal ball bearing into an enclosed tube, the impact of the ball bearing been fired down the tube at high speed causes a ‘shockwave’, that transmits its force though the hand piece, this results in the ‘shockwave’ penetrating the affected tissue, prompting the formation of new blood vessels, this in turn causes, collagen synthesis- the release of local growth factor.

So, what is a local growth factor I hear you ask?

Local Growth Factor is a messenger signal that your body releases- it’s a signalling protein, which in turn stimulates cell growth.

Growth factors are proteins that signal the body to grow new cells, this in turn stimulates the collagen fibres. With the formation of new blood vessels to bring all the nutrients into the body to start the healing process.

The theory is once the body has flushed out the toxins, you take the Chronic Inflammation back to an Acute Inflammation. This gives the body a better chance to heal, by restarting the healing process.

So this leads to the next question:

What is chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is a condition that negatively affects the body’s ability to heal, this is a form of inflammation that you have usually had for at least 3 months or longer.  The impact of this Chronic inflammation on the body causes a toxic environment which in turn affects the body’s ability to heal itself.

The process of reversing this you can equate to taking out all your old rubbish and starting fresh with all your new things installed, a classic declutter!

When you suffer from chronic inflammation you need to reset the body clock back to Acute Inflammation.

Once you have reset the body back to Acute inflammation you are giving your body a chance to heal and repair.

So what is acute inflammation?

Acute Inflammation is caused by trauma, i.e. when you injure yourself you cause acute inflammation at the site of the injury, it’s the body’s way of protecting itself, it’s how our bodies are designed to respond to injury.

Part of this response causes the site of the injury to start to swell can cause redness or soreness – this is the bodies way of protecting itself by fighting what it sees as an ‘external enemy’ that t needs to expel, it does this by going over the top with its response hence Acute Inflammation.

You could have deeper tissue damage which is not visible to the eye and the body carries on sending its response after the visible signs of injury have all healed.

This in turn interferes with the bodies healing process causing pain and discomfort, you could be experiencing pain from the damaged tissue by this over blown response, stopping the body healing itself from the initial injury.

Shock wave Treatment prompts new blood vessels to develop,the blood vessels in turn bring nutrients to the damaged tissue, resetting the bodies response from Chronic Inflammation back to Acute Inflammation, by doing this you have effectively cleaned the toxic environment caused by the original response to the injury. The new blood vessels will now be supporting the healing process, by supplying the injured site with the nutrients, which in turn helps the building blocks of the bodies eventual recovery.

As a rule of thumb it generally takes 4 to 6 treatments for you to notice a benefit from the shockwave treatment.  Shockwave treatment helps with pain as well as chronic inflammation.

Shockwave can be administered by a variety of practitioners including phyisotherapists, and podiatrists.  It is mostly found in clinics whose focus is musco-skeletal.  There are a range of different shockwave machines out there and not all perform to the same level.  A bit like you can buy different quality cars, you can get different quality shockwave machines.  Within the healthcare industry the swiss dolorcast is accepted to be one of the best available and used by top sports clubs such as premiership football clubs and olympic athletes.   At our clinic it is a machine that is in daily use, but most often we use it in conjunction with other treatments to get the optimum outcomes for our patients.  If you are suffering with foot, heel or ankle pain then we may use it as part of our 3 step programme.