Harnessing Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy to Treat Athletes

Jan 29, 2024
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Athletes are a special breed, prone to overuse injuries, and no matter the condition or injury, they need it addressed quickly and expediently to get back in the game. ESWT has game changing potential with the enhancement of athletic rehabilitation.

What is Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy?

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) is a cutting-edge approach to treating acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain and connective tissue disorders. There are two types of shockwaves used in this therapy: radial pressure waves (EPAT(R)) and focused shockwaves (ESWT). Both types are backed by valid medical evidence and are highly effective when used together with complementary regenerative solutions.

Radial pressure wave (EPAT) is characterized by high-energy acoustic pressure waves that are most intense at the source, making it ideal for treating larger areas. Focused shockwave (ESWT) penetrates deeply into the tissue and delivers targeted power at specific depths.

ESWT serves as a healing accelerator and has shown exceptional efficacy in treating athletes.

How Does Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Work?

ESWT stimulates a cascade of biological responses across cellular, tissue, and organ levels. By applying shockwave during treatment, regeneration is triggered, and the body's natural healing system is awakened. This approach offers numerous advantages, including increased collagen synthesis, cellular proliferation, accelerated wound healing, pain reduction, neovascularization, and reduced inflammation.

Shockwave technology has been recognized as a game-changing therapeutic approach supported by Level 1 medical evidence. It provides multifaceted benefits to promote recovery and well-being across various physiological levels.

For athletes, the ability to perform at a high level is crucial. Therefore, addressing musculoskeletal injuries or dysfunctions in a timely manner is imperative. Shockwave therapy provides a safe and expedited path to recovery, allowing athletes to return to competition quickly with minimal to no downtime. Additionally, many athletes can continue their training regimens during the treatment period, making it a convenient and non-invasive alternative to traditional protocols.

Treatment times are typically 15 to 20 minutes long, with weekly visits lasting 4 to 6 weeks. Athletes often experience relief and analgesic effects after the first treatment.

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy for Athletes

Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the efficacy of ESWT in treating a wide range of musculoskeletal and soft tissue disorders. In the athletic population, where overuse injuries are common, ESWT can address the root cause of dysfunction and accelerate healing.

Let's examine some prevalent athletic injuries and how shockwave therapy can help in each case:

Achilles tendinopathy - Shockwave therapy is highly effective in treating Achilles tendinopathy, providing functional gains for athletes experiencing pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited mobility.

Tennis or golfer's elbow - Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow) are inflammatory conditions caused by repetitive motion. Shockwave therapy can benefit athletes with these conditions.

Stress fractures - Bone stress injuries (BSI) are common among runners and can sideline athletes for an extended period. However, shockwave therapy offers new hope for managing BSI and promoting faster healing.

Frozen shoulder - Athletes with frozen shoulder often experience restricted shoulder movement, impacting daily life and athletics. Shockwave therapy provides effective treatment options for both broad and focused treatment approaches.

Plantar fasciitis - This inflammatory condition is common among athletes and can cause severe heel and arch pain. Shockwave therapy has been proven effective in treating plantar fasciitis through multiple clinical trials and meta-analyses.

Rotator cuff injuries - Rotator cuff injuries can be acute or chronic and are characterized by shoulder pain and weakness. Shockwave therapy has shown positive results in treating calcified rotator cuff tendinopathy.

Strained calves or hamstrings - Calf strains and hamstring injuries are frequently seen among athletes. Shockwave therapy has been proven effective for both conditions.

Shin splints - Medial tibial stress syndrome, commonly known as shin splints, can cause severe pain. Shockwave therapy has been shown to promote tissue healing and provide pain relief.

Hip pain - Shockwave therapy has been effective in alleviating hip pain in athletes, providing them with relief and improved performance.

Jumper's knees - Chronic patellar tendinopathy, also known as jumper's knee, can benefit from shockwave therapy, which has been shown to be more effective and safer than traditional conservative approaches.

Benefits of Offering ESWT for Athletes:

Improved patient outcomes - ESWT enhances patient care by providing innovative and non-invasive treatment options that accelerate healing and produce optimal results.

Reduced need for invasive surgery - Shockwave therapy eliminates the necessity for invasive procedures, allowing athletes to recover faster without the associated risks and downtime.

No downtime - Athletes can quickly return to their activities without a long recovery period, thanks to the minimal to no downtime required by shockwave therapy.

No risk - Shockwave therapy is generally safe for healthy athletes, with no known associated risks. However, some contraindications exist, such as pregnancy, heart conditions or pacemakers, and certain medications that may interfere with blood flow.

Little to no side effects - While mild swelling, bruising, and temporary aches may occur, serious adverse side effects are rare with shockwave therapy.

Faster recovery timelines - The regenerative nature of shockwave therapy allows athletes to heal more quickly, getting them back in the game sooner.

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy offers widespread benefits for athletes, providing accelerated healing, non-invasive treatment options, and speedy recovery. With its proven efficacy and safety, shockwave therapy is becoming a go-to solution for athletes seeking optimal care and performance.

Is musculoskeletal pain keeping you out of the game?  Schedule a consult or introductory call to find out how shockwave therapy can help get you back to pain-free participation.

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