Radial Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy


What is RSWT? 

Shockwave therapy was first approved in the US in 2000. Shockwave therapy is FDA approved technology that uses soundwaves to penetrate the deeper tissues causing microtrauma to the area. This then causes a casade of events leading to inflammation which then triggers your body's own natural healing repsonse. Studies show that RSWT has a 72-80% success rate. In a study from 2010 out of the Foot and Ankle International, 50 patients with chronic plantar fasciitis were treated with RSWT. Average pain was 8.5 out of 10. Patients were split into a placebo and a treatment group. The treatment group only received two sessions of therapy. The treatment group at 24 weeks showed pain at 0.5 out of 10. Another study from 2003 out of the same journal showed at 12 weeks post treatment 49 feet showed 63% decrease in pain and at 2 years had 94% decrease in pain. In 2007 the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery showed that at 12 weeks the shockwave treated group had 73% decrease in pain while the placebo group only showed 32%. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery showed that when used to treat Chronic insertional Achilles tendinopathy that those that had failed three months of conservative therapy were then treated with RSWT and a second group with eccentric loading (a form of stretching). This study showed an improvement in the VISA-A score (Achilles Sports assessment score) that those treated with eccentric loading had an improvement of 53 to 63. While those treated with RSWT showed an increase from 53 to 80. 

Shockwave therapy as you can see is an effective treatment for soft tissue injuries and pain. Shockwave therapy is typically applied like an ultrasound and treatments are applied once a week for 4-5 treatments. Treatments are typically 5 minutes and are non-painful to the patient. 

Shockwave therapy has shown proven success that is equal to or greater than surgery and does not involve the risks of surgery, such as infection, scarring, and lack of improvement. There is no need for anesthesia, patient may be active immediately after and can resume all normal activities. 

Won't Physical Therapy help?

Physical therapy is an excellent modality and for some patients it is exactly what they need. However, physcial therapy typically is 2 to 3 times a week for up to 6 weeks. Treatments are for over an hour typically. These visits typically cost a copay and can cost up to $600 dollars when that adds up. RSWT is a 5 minute treatment once a week  that can typically yield relief after the 1st treatment and sometimes only 3-4 treatments are neccessary. 

What are the side effects?

There are very few side effects to RSWT. In rare cases, skin bruising may be noted. Patients may also have increased soreness to the area for a day or two, but that's it. 

Now the big question!

Is it covered by insurance? Unfortunately RSWT is not covered by insurance. However, if you are interested, it is can be much more affordable than going to physical therapy. If you have chronic Achilles or plantar fascial pain, give us a call and we can get you a quote on what it would take to get rid of your pain. 

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Case Study

plantar arch pain with history of plantar fasciitis