Everything you want to know about shock wave therapy

The medical field is full of jargon and technical terms that can sometimes be overwhelming to New Yorkers and others who are not ingrained in the industry. I always want patients to understand their treatment options, as well as how they work. One of the things I am often asked about is shock wave therapy, a treatment that has been shown to have benefits in treating plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinosis. Below are a few common questions I hear when discussing shock wave therapy. If you would like to discuss the approach in greater detail or have specific concerns, please reach out! We’re happy to answer questions over the phone or during an appointment because we want you to have healthy feet and ankles that help you meet your goals in life!

What is it?

Simply put, shock wave therapy is a noninvasive method that uses sound waves to treat various foot and ankle conditions. High-energy acoustics (aka: sound waves) deliver a mechanical force to the body’s tissue. The treatment targets soft tissue that has been damaged and stimulates a repair process. Usually, a patient will undergo 1-3 rounds of treatment.

Does it hurt?

While the name sounds scary, shock wave therapy does not necessarily have to hurt. The question of pain is relative to each individual patient. Low-level shocks can produce a mild discomfort, though many report that they don’t feel much. On the other hand, high-level shocks can be more aggressive, and, thus, more painful. Depending on your situation, we can use a local anesthetic in the treatment area to provide relief. Over-the-counter pain medications can also prove helpful both before and after treatment. Of course, shock therapy is often less painful than the chronic hurt that comes from a damaged foot or ankle. A few shock sessions that provide long-term relief might be easier to tolerate if you keep a big-picture outlook in mind.

How effective is it?

The concept of shock wave therapy has been applied in clinical settings for decades now, but we continue to test strategies for implementing it. It is not completely clear why this approach to healing works for some people, but it is thought that the shock waves cause inflammation and improve blood flow to encourage the body to repair and heal itself. The treatment is not a guarantee for fixing all foot and ankle issues, but it’s track record is strong enough that I feel comfortable offering it to patients. Shock waves are particularly useful to try if other approaches, including physical therapy, have not provided desired relief.

Is it right for me?

Possibly so! The best way to determine if shock waves are the right choice for you is to have a complete evaluation by a trained physician. Candidates usually suffer from plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendon pain that has not resolved with stretching, physical therapy, orthotics, or using a walking boot. The treatment is a great option to try before going to more extreme measures, like surgery.