Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)
You can visualize Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) is a technology related to ultrasound. Quite like ultrasound, it uses sound waves. However, unlike ultrasound, it is not used for imaging or diagnosis but rather for treatment.
There are other significant differences between the ESWT and ultrasound. For example, ultrasound uses high-frequency waves to create a highly detailed image of deeper body organs. However, ESWT uses low-frequency waves that can carry a higher degree of energy deeper into the body tissues.
Nonetheless, both ultrasound and ESWT use soundwaves, albeit of different frequencies. This makes both these technologies highly safe, as there is no radiation involved.
ESWT traces its origins to 1980 when medical specialists first started using shockwave therapy to treat urological conditions. In the 1980s, it became one of the popular non-invasive ways of breaking kidney stones into smaller pieces so that they can be passed via urine more readily.
Its success in urology demonstrated that sound waves could be a safe way to modulate deep tissues without the use of surgery or invasive methods. Subsequent studies showed that it could be really good for musculoskeletal conditions promoting bone healing, soft-tissue healing, ligaments, and tendons healing.
The ESWT apparatus sends sound waves, with high energy waves followed by low energy. High energy waves have a direct mechanical impact, whereas the negative phase causes the formation of local gas bubbles. When applied to soft tissues, it may alter their blood flow and significantly modulate local metabolic activity.
Although its mechanism is not fully understood, most such therapies have pure physical phase when the energy waves are transmitted, followed by biophysical and pure biological phases. Thus, it has some short-term and long-term effects. In the long term, it may promote the formation of new blood vessels, promote the proliferation of stem cells, amplify local growth factors, stimulate collagen synthesis, and help in tissue remodeling.
Benefits of ESWT
Physiotherapy is one of the safe ways of rehabilitation in many disease conditions. Physiotherapists may use many methods like massage therapy, stretching, and so on. However, many of the traditional methods have limitations. For example, they cannot be more effective for superficial tissues, are less focused, and not so good at mobilizing the deeper tissues. However, ESWT can solve all these issues and thus can be good for deeper organs.
ESWT is like giving massage to deeper tissues, but without touching them. Instead, one uses sound waves that focus on specific tissues. Two areas in which ESWT excels are musculoskeletal conditions and urological conditions.
Thus, it is suitable for tendinopathies of lower and upper extremities, promoting bone healing and helping with strains and sprains. In addition, it can be quite helpful in slowly healing fractures. It may even help in osteoarthritis of the knee, as it promotes the healing of joints.
It is especially good for promoting the healing of ligaments and tendons, as these tissues have a poor blood supply. In addition, ESWT is especially good for promoting neo-angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels. Hence, it can help with chronic pains.
Quite often, people continue to feel pain even after months or years of trauma to arms or legs, and it is especially true for older adults. In many, such pains may become worse during the change of season. However, ESWT may help get rid of such pains forever in most cases.
When it comes to urology, specific attention is given to erectile dysfunction (ED). ED mainly occurs in people due to chronic ailments affecting urogenital tract and vascular health. The primary reason for ED is reduced blood supply to the penile tissue. ESWT can boost blood supply and promote the formation of new blood vessels. In many cases, it may completely reverse ED.
ESWT is a very safe treatment with very few contraindications like it is not used in pregnancy, over major blood vessels, open wounds, and cancerous tissues.
ESWT is an evidence-based treatment. It is an FDA-approved therapy for many disease conditions. There are hundreds of clinical studies showing that it can work. It may be especially useful when combined with lifestyle interventions. It is among the most effective non-pharmacological treatments for many disease conditions.