How Does Shockwave Therapy Work: An In-Depth Look

Shockwave therapy, also known as Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT), has gained popularity in the field of sports medicine and rehabilitation due to its promising results in treating various musculoskeletal conditions. This non-invasive treatment accelerates the body’s healing process, alleviates pain, and improves mobility. But how does shockwave therapy work exactly? Let’s delve into the details.

Understanding Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is a modern treatment method that uses high-energy acoustic waves, or shockwaves, to stimulate healing in the body’s musculoskeletal tissues. These shockwaves are administered through a handheld device directly to the affected area, penetrating the skin and muscle layers to reach the underlying tissues.

The Origins of Shockwave Therapy

The concept of shockwave therapy was initially developed in Germany in the late 1960s. It was first used for lithotripsy, a medical procedure to break down kidney stones. Later, in the 1990s, researchers started to explore its potential in treating soft tissue injuries.

The Working Mechanism of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy functions by delivering focused energy pulses to the injured area of the body. These pulses of energy stimulate the body’s natural healing process, promoting tissue regeneration and alleviating pain.

The Role of Acoustic Waves

The shockwaves used in this therapy are essentially acoustic waves carrying high energy. These waves can travel through the skin and muscle layers to the targeted tissues. On reaching the affected area, the energy from these waves improves blood circulation, breaks down calcified deposits, stimulates the growth of new bone and connective tissue, and reduces pain by overstimulating nerve endings.

The Benefits of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy has multiple benefits that make it an attractive treatment option for various conditions.

Non-Surgical Treatment

One of the significant advantages of shockwave therapy is its non-surgical nature. This means patients can continue their daily routine without the need for a lengthy recovery period associated with surgical procedures.

Efficient Healing

Shockwave therapy jumpstarts the body’s natural healing capabilities. By improving blood flow and stimulating tissue regeneration, it enables faster recovery from injuries.

Wide Range of Applications

Shockwave therapy can be used to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, including tendon injuries, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, and more. It has also been approved by the FDA for treating lateral tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis.

Side Effects of Shockwave Therapy

While shockwave therapy is generally safe, some minor side effects may occur. Patients may experience slight discomfort at the treatment site, minor bruising, or numbness. However, these are temporary and typically resolve as the area heals.

Who Should Avoid Shockwave Therapy?

Although shockwave therapy is beneficial for many, it is not suitable for everyone. Patients with malignant tumors, bleeding disorders, or those who are pregnant should avoid this treatment. Additionally, it should not be used on patients with an injury that clearly requires surgery.

The Procedure of Shockwave Therapy

The procedure for shockwave therapy is relatively straightforward. The practitioner applies a water-based gel to the patient’s skin and uses a handheld device to deliver the acoustic waves to the affected area. The treatment typically involves two to three sessions, each lasting about 15 minutes.

The Cost and Future of Shockwave Therapy

Currently, no insurance plans cover shockwave therapy, and the treatment costs vary. However, the expanding applications of ESWT in treating various conditions suggest a promising future for this therapy. 

In Conclusion

Shockwave therapy is proving to be a game-changer in the field of sports medicine and rehabilitation. With its ability to accelerate healing and alleviate pain without surgery, it is no wonder that more and more people are asking, “How does shockwave therapy work?” As research in this field continues, we can expect to see even more applications of this innovative therapy in the future.


  • WebMD: “What Is Shockwave Therapy?”
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center: “How shockwave therapy helps heal sports and overuse injuries”
  • Journal of Acta Informatica Medica: “Radial Extra Corporeal Shockwave Therapy Versus Ultrasound Therapy in the Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis.”
  • Materia Socio Medica: “Effectiveness and Safety of Shockwave Therapy in Tendinopathies.”

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