Shockwave Therapy vs. Ultrasound: A Comparison

Physical rehabilitation has drastically transformed over the years, offering a range of innovative treatment modalities for pain relief and healing. Among the various treatment options available today, Shockwave Therapy and Ultrasound Therapy are gaining significant attention for their efficacy in dealing with musculoskeletal issues. However, choosing the right treatment can often be a challenging task. Therefore, to help you make an informed decision, this article presents a comprehensive comparison of Shockwave Therapy and Ultrasound Therapy.

Understanding the Basics

What is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave Therapy, often referred to as Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT), is a non-invasive treatment that employs acoustic waves to promote tissue healing and alleviate pain. This process entails the generation of high-energy sound waves via electromagnetic pulses or compressed air, which are then concentrated on the precise area of discomfort or injury.

ESWT is known to stimulate blood circulation, collagen production, and cellular regeneration, thereby fostering healing. There are two primary types of shockwave therapies utilized to treat various musculoskeletal conditions and expedite tissue healing:

Focused Shockwave Therapy (FSWT): FSWT employs high-energy shockwaves that are concentrated and delivered accurately to a specific target point within the body, primarily to focus on deep tissues.

Radial Shockwave Therapy (RSWT): Unlike focused shockwaves, RSWT disburses therapeutic energy more broadly, covering a larger treatment area.

What is Ultrasound Therapy?

Ultrasound Therapy, or therapeutic ultrasound, employs high-frequency sound waves to generate gentle heat within the body’s tissues. This therapeutic heat boosts blood flow and can help accelerate healing, alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance the elasticity of tissues.

Ultrasound machines emit therapeutic sound waves through a transducer on the skin’s surface. These waves penetrate deep into the targeted tissues, generating heat and promoting the healing process and relaxation.

Key Differences Between Shockwave Therapy and Ultrasound Therapy

Mechanisms of Action

The mechanisms of action between these two therapies are distinct:

Shockwave Therapy (ESWT): ESWT uses high-energy mechanical sound waves (therapeutic shock waves) to stimulate healing in the affected areas of bones, tendons, and other soft tissues. These shock waves cause physical disruption or stimulation in the tissue, promoting increased blood flow and healing.

Ultrasound Therapy: This therapy uses sound waves at a much higher frequency than we can hear to generate heat deep within the body’s tissues. This increases blood flow, which can help speed up healing, decrease pain, and reduce inflammation.


The applications of these therapies also vary:

Shockwave Therapy (ESWT): ESWT is often used for treating chronic pains or injuries such as plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, shoulder tendinopathies, and certain types of fractures that are slow to heal.

Ultrasound Therapy: This therapy works well in both post-acute and chronic conditions, including inflammation, soft tissue injuries like strains and sprains, tendon strains, and even fractures. Ultrasound therapy is often used in Physical Therapy. 

Detailed Comparison of Shockwave Therapy and Ultrasound Therapy

While both therapies are effective in treating various conditions, several clinical studies have compared their effectiveness in particular ailments. Here are a few:

Efficacy in Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common foot disorder that causes heel pain. Both shockwave and ultrasound therapy have been used to treat this condition with varying success rates.

Efficacy in Treating Other Chronic Pains and Injuries

Another study concluded  ESWT is superior to Ultrasound for plantar fasciitis as it improves pain activity and intensity, primary efficacy success rate, and activity limitations.

Final Thoughts

Shockwave Therapy and Ultrasound Therapy have proven effective in treating various musculoskeletal conditions. However, the choice of therapy should be based on the individual’s unique condition and the advice of a healthcare professional.

At The Orthohealing Center, our experienced doctors specialize in assessing, diagnosing, and treating movement and physical injuries. If you’re dealing with injuries or musculoskeletal conditions, our expert team can help you regain pain-free movement, enhance function, and improve your overall quality of life. Contact our team today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards a healthier, more active lifestyle!

Remember, the goal is not just to treat the symptoms but to address the root cause of your pain or discomfort. Choose a therapy that suits your needs, and always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment regimen.


  • “Radial Extra Corporeal Shockwave Therapy Versus Ultrasound Therapy in the Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis.” NCBI. Link
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