Shockwave Therapy: What Is It and Can It Help with Your Pain?

23 Jun 2022


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What is Shockwave Therapy?

It is a powerful non-surgical treatment, highly effective in pain-relief and regaining function and mobility. When applied to the affected area, it stimulates tissue healing and regeneration. A sequence of low frequency, high energy acoustic waves are generated from the kinetic energy of the projectile. It is created by compressed air, transferred to the transmitter at the end of the applicator and directed into the affected tissue. 

Shockwave Therapy 1

How does shockwave therapy work? What is the science behind it?

  1. Pain relief
  2. Reversal of chronic inflammation:

When an inflammatory response has not completely ceased, this is known as chronic inflammation. This can irritate and damage healthy tissue, leading to chronic pain. Mast cells are involved in the inflammatory process. When activated, they trigger the production of small proteins namely chemokines and cytokines, which direct the migration of white blood cells toward infected or damaged tissue. This initially amplifies the inflammatory process, followed by restoring normal healing and regenerative processes. The application of shockwave therapy has shown to increase the  activity of these mast cells which then leads to all these other processes. 

  • Reduce substance “P”

Substance P exists within our bodies to regulate the perception of pain by relaying messages of pain to the central nervous system.  Substance P is often associated with the perception of intense and persistent chronic pain. When the concentration of  bodily substance P is reduced, there is less stimulation of the pain-perceiving fibres of the central nervous system. In addition, decreasing substance P also decelerates the development of inflammation-associated swelling. Concentration of Substance P is observed to be lowered with the exposure to acoustic waves from shockwave therapy. 

  • Dissolve calcifications:

After undergoing repetitive micro-tears or traum, calcification can occur within the affected tendon or muscle. Acoustic waves from shockwave therapy are able to break up these calcifications. The resulting calcium particles are then drained away by the lymphatic system.

  • Release trigger points

Trigger points are believed to be nodules within muscle bands, formed by over-contracted muscle fibre units. With this over-contraction, these muscle fibers cut off their own blood flow and supply, causing a build-up of waste products. These waste products irritate the sensory nerve endings of the muscles, which cause further contraction. The acoustic waves from shockwave therapy unblock calcium ion pumps within the muscle fibres, allowing a more efficient breakdown and clearance of these waste products.

  • Tissue regeneration
  • Formation of new blood vessells

Blood carries oxygen and nutrients, which are needed for repair of damaged tissue. Application of shock waves induces micro ruptures of tiny blood vessels within the tendon and/or bone tissue. These blood vessels remodel and new ones are formed. The new blood vessels improve supply of nutrients and oxygen to the treated area, encouraging faster healing of the injured or degenerated structure. 

  • Stimulate collagen production

Acoustic waves from shockwave therapy catalyse the organisation of procollagen to form the triple helix collagen, by compacting new collagen fibres into a longitudinal structure. This makes the new tendon fibres stiffer and more dense, giving rise to a more resistant and less-yielding structure. 

All the above-mentioned processes are simultaneously carried out during the course of shockwave therapy treatment. 

  • Body

What are the benefits of shockwave therapy?

Shockwave therapy brings about accelerated tissue repair and cell growth, pain relief and restoration of function and mobility. It is exceptionally effective in treating sub-acute and chronic conditions. Some examples of conditions which respond positively to shockwave therapy include chronic tendinopathies, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, heel spurs, jumper’s knee, insertional pain, medial tibial stress syndrome and many more. 

How does shockwave therapy stand out from other types of therapy? What is unique about it?

Fun fact: Did you know that the very first shockwave machine was invented to treat stones in the kidney and ureter? Similar high energy waves are used to break those stones into pieces as fine as sand. These pieces can then be passed out in the patient’s urine. This meant that the patient did not have to undergo a surgery to remove the kidney stones! 

What makes shockwave therapy Singapore so effective is that its effects occur at the deep cellular level. This means the body kickstarts its recovery at the very foundational stage, bringing about chemical changes for tissue healing and regeneration. As a result, the relief it brings is longer lasting and recovery is long-term.

Traditionally, the option for shockwave therapy is only incorporated when all other non-invasive treatments have been deemed unsuccessful. However when administered timely and accurately by a qualified healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist in Singapore, it can be used as a first-line of effective treatment approach to many conditions. In many countries, the timely incorporation of shockwave therapy during physiotherapy sessions have helped many individuals circumvent surgeries or long-term pain medications.

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