Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT)

What is extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) and how can it help me?

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) is a new non-invasive procedure used to treat sufferers of conditions such as shoulder pain, painful heel, tennis elbow or pain in the Achilles tendon.

What does Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy involve?

ESWT is carried out at an outpatient’s appointment and requires no injections, medication or surgery. Once you have been referred by your GP, your consultant can start the treatment after your assessment. It is usually offered after a traditional treatment such as physiotherapy, has failed to improve symptoms.

During extracorporeal shock wave therapy high energy sound waves are created and focused on the injury using a special pad. Shock waves are repeatedly applied to the injury area and break down any scar tissue and calcifications in the area which in some cases the body is unable to repair itself. As the tissue is broken down by the shock wave the body starts building up new tissue, replicating the body’s own self-healing process.

An assessment takes place before treatment is carried out. Usually an ultrasound scan is provided as part of the assessment to help determine location, injury type and severity.

A course of extracorporeal shock wave therapy usually requires three sessions, each taking about 45 - 60 minutes, which in addition to the treatment, includes advice on retraining of weak muscles related to the injury.

Following the treatment, in most cases pain should lessen and pain should not be felt 8-12 weeks after the last session.

What are the benefits of Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy or ESWT offers advantages over traditional surgical methods:

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  • No anaesthesia
  • Non invasive
  • No medication
  • No surgery
  • Fast treatment
  • Fewer complications
  • Virtually painless after treatment
  • Quick recovery and quick results

What are the risks of having ESWT?

During the treatment you will experience some pain, at tolerable levels. Potential side effects after the treatment are:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Numbness in the area
  • There is a small risk of tendon or ligament rupture

All risks will be discussed in full with the consultant prior to the procedure.

How soon will I recover?

You will be able to go home straight away.  If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort you can take over-the-counter painkillers. The consultant will inform you about what to do once you get home.

Unless advise otherwise, you can return to day to day activities immediately, although you should avoid high-impact exercise or strenuous activities for the first two days. 

*Revised and updated November 2016

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