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Can Shockwave Therapy help with Knee Pain?

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Shockwave therapy, also known as extracorporeal shockwave therapy (SWT), was originally designed as a way of treating kidney and urinary stones. Soon, however, its potential as a treatment for a variety of pain conditions related to the musculoskeletal system became apparent and it is now becoming a popular non-invasive treatment option.

What Is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy uses specific sound waves with positive and negative phases. The positive phase creates a direct mechanical force and the negative phase creates a cavity and gas bubbles that continue the shockwaves from within. The shockwaves from SWT are many times more powerful than those you would find in ultrasound therapy and they can be particularly useful for conditions that are both painful and which cause disability and a reduced range of motion.

How Can Shockwave Therapy Help With Knee Pain?

Knee pain can be caused by conditions that affect the bones and the cartilage within the knee, such as osteoarthritis. It can also be caused by conditions or injuries that affect the soft tissue and ligaments/tendons, for example, jumper's knee. Shockwave therapy can be a useful treatment option for both types of conditions or injuries.

Shockwave Therapy For Patella Tendinopathy

Patella tendinopathy is a common knee injury that results from overuse of the knee, particularly in high impact sports such as volleyball (hence the nickname "jumpers knee") but that can also result from other activities such as running. The usual treatment for patella tendinopathy includes anti-inflammatory drugs and ice therapy but shockwave therapy is a promising treatment option that is gaining a lot of traction.

A review of the literature found that shockwave therapy is a safe and effective treatment for patella tendinopathy that reduces pain and improves the functionality of the knee. The exact mechanism for how it works isn't known but it seems to have a direct pain-reducing effect alongside the stimulation of healing processes within the body itself.

Shockwave Therapy For Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that occurs as we age and stems from the natural cartilage cushioning between our joints gradually becomes worn down. It can also be caused by an injury or other conditions such as obesity. Treatments for osteoarthritis usually include pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-inflammatory injections, lifestyle changes, and in severe cases knee replacement surgery.

There is a wealth of evidence showing that shockwave therapy is an effective treatment for knee osteoarthritis. A review of all the literature to date found that shockwave therapy is an effective treatment that reduces both the pain and the disability associated with knee osteoarthritis, without increasing the risk of adverse events. A similar pain reduction and healing process is likely to be occurring with osteoarthritis as with patella tendinopathy, as well as an improvement in bone density and an increased regeneration of cartilage.

Shockwave therapy is likely to be useful for a wide range of causes of knee pain, beyond the two examples listed here, using the same healing mechanisms.

Shockwave therapy is a relatively new treatment that shows a lot of promise for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, including those that affect the knees. It can work to treat conditions that are caused by the bones and cartilage as well as conditions resulting from the ligaments, tendons, and soft tissue. It is non-invasive and has few side effects.

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