Pros and cons of Shockwave Therapy
Most decisions in life have pros and cons. This includes medical treatments and procedures, including shockwave therapy. For most people, the pros will outweigh the negatives, however we treat every individual as unique with their own situation and goals. Shockwave therapy is considered safe and highly effective but at the same time may not be ideal for everyone.
How do we know if shockwave therapy is the right fit for you? Here is an overview with both the negative and positive aspects of the procedure. Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment therapy that uses pulses of energy or shockwaves to trigger a healing response in soft tissues that have been damaged and are painful. These waves are generated by a small machine which travel through a cable and an applicator wand and into your injured tissues.
These shockwaves increase metabolism, boost collagen and release signaling chemicals and other natural processes to help fight the inflammation and pain and also accelerates tissue regeneration. Shockwave therapy is an advanced conservative therapy useful in treating many forms of chronic pain and is an effective alternative to surgery for many patients.
It is non-invasive and is mostly drug-free.
Shockwave therapy does not require any incisions. The pulses are delivered through skin contact. In fact, that’s why the procedure is often more fully known as extracorporeal shockwave therapy—extracorporeal means “outside the body.”
This alone makes it a very compelling alternative to a surgical procedure.
During the shockwave procedure itself, we may use a local anesthetic to dull the sensations of the vibrations. Very few patients experience any pain during the procedure, and the intensity can be adjusted if you’re uncomfortable.
Beyond that, no medications or drugs of any kinds are used in the procedure. There are no steroid injections, no prescriptions, nothing. The healing processes that shockwave therapy stimulates are completely natural functions that your body can handle all on its own. The shockwaves are necessary only to “kick start” the process. The healing processes that shockwave therapy stimulates are completely natural functions of your body. The shockwaves only get the process started.
There is no downtime.
The treatment typically takes only 15 to 20 minutes and unlike surgery there is no downtime. Consequently, you can continue your life as normal and it will not affect any activities or daily living.
It is safe.
There may be minor side effects such as mild, swelling, bruising or aches for several days after the procedure, but major side effects are very rare which make shockwave therapy extremely safe. It can greatly accelerate the healing process allowing you to return to your normal life in a quick manner.
Cons of Shockwave Therapy
It may not be covered by your insurance.
Shockwave therapy has been approved by the FDA and has been shown to be safe and effective, however many insurers will not cover the procedure. Even if a patient has to pay out of pocket, we do what we can to make sure this is an affordable treatment option for our patients who want it. It is still usually a much cheaper alternative than surgery. However, we realize that money is a very important consideration, so in some instances you may want to hold off on the procedure until your insurance covers it and all conservative treatment options have been exhausted.
You may need several appointments.
A typical course of treatment may require 2-3 sessions, although more may be necessary for serious injuries. Each session is brief, lasting no more than 15-20 minutes. It may be slightly more inconvenient for those who are busy during the day, as opposed to single appointment treatments such as steroid injections.
That said, the upside with shockwave is that the appointments actually trigger healing in your tissues. A steroid injection may provide several months of pain relief, but only treats symptoms and the effect is temporary. So, in the long run, shockwave is not only the superior choice but may also be less time consuming overall. In addition, shockwave therapy is non-invasive and generally has minimal side effects. The most common side effect is temporary discomfort during or after the treatment. However, this is typically manageable with over-the-counter pain medication. Overall, shockwave therapy is an effective and safe treatment option for many common musculoskeletal conditions.
Shockwave therapy may not be for everyone
Although shockwave therapy is an extremely effective and safe treatment for many conditions, there are a few situations where we do not recommend the procedure. This includes pregnancy, certain heart conditions or pacemakers, and taking medication that interferes with blood clotting. Additionally, if you have neuropathy or hypersensitivity in the target area, we may or may not recommend shockwave therapy, depending on the severity of your symptoms. However, even in these cases, our team will work with you to find the best possible treatment.
If you are suffering from chronic pain that won’t go away, or you want the fastest possible recovery from an injury, give Performance Care Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Center a call. We will find the best option to help you achieve your goals of a pain free life, and will help you determine whether shockwave therapy is a good fit for your treatment plan.