Neck and back pain can occur for many reasons, all of which can be debilitating. Whether you deal with shoulder pain from playing sports, or you hurt your neck or back at work, untreated symptoms often become chronic and can leave you partially or entirely immobile. Many doctors prescribe pain medication or recommend surgery to treat ongoing neck and back pain, but some patients prefer less invasive treatment options.
What Is Shockwave Therapy?
Developed initially to help urologists break up kidney stones without performing surgery on patients, shockwave therapy has been around since the early 1980s. From there, the treatment was studied concerning orthopedics. Researchers first noticed the treatment helped to loosen cement in revisions for total hip arthroplasties before learning it would also improve the overall healing of fractures.
Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) or Radial Shockwave Therapy (RSWT) can help those with one or more musculoskeletal conditions. According to information provided in various scientific studies, including research from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, shockwave therapy has relatively minor side effects. It is an excellent treatment option for many people.
How Is Shockwave Therapy Performed?
Shock wave therapy for back pain relies on an acoustic wave to carry energy to the to the area where the patient is experiencing pain. The acoustic wave penetrates the skin before radiating through the muscle, tendon, or joint that needs relief. It is helpful for both acute and chronic pain conditions, making it a popular treatment among sports medicine doctors, pain management specialists, and a range of other medical professionals. Low energy or high energy shock waves are used depending on the nature of the injury.
Whether extracorporeal shock wave therapy or radial shock wave therapy, the penetrative acoustic shockwaves are administered with the help of a handheld device that your doctor will connect to a machine. The machine then turns compressed air into the sound wave while the physician applies light pressure and moves the device over the pained areas. Ultrasound gel helps to transmit the shockwaves through the skin. If the patient has scar tissue in the affected area, the shockwave helps break down the fibrous tissue, which may also work to ease discomfort and improve a patient’s mobility in the area.
What are the Benefits of Shockwave Therapy?
Shockwave treatment provides a wide range of benefits for patients who use it. The treatment speeds up how fast your body’s tendons, bones, muscles, and joints heal because the shockwaves enhance blood circulation, regenerate tissue more quickly, and stimulate metabolism. Also, ESWT can be used to treat conditions like plantar fasciitis.
One of the most significant advantages it creates for patients is that it helps form new blood vessels. The new vessels create better blood flow that pushes nutrients to the damaged tissue and supports faster healing for affected bones and tendons. There are many other advantages as well, such as:
Disperses “Substance P”
Shockwaves help rid the affected area of “Substance P,” a neurotransmitter known for creating intense and persistent pain in the body. This is often the goal when treating specific conditions like chronic plantar fasciitis.
Dissolves Calcified Fibroblasts
Shockwave therapy breaks up calcifications that create micro-tears or otherwise traumatize tendons and cause pain.
Releases Trigger Points
Acoustic shockwaves help to release trigger points that cause pain in the back, neck, and shoulders, thus relieving pain.
Reverses Chronic Inflammation
Chronic inflammation damages tissue and creates chronic pain. Acoustic waves increase mast cells in the body, which are essential for removing excess inflammation and restoring the normal healing process.
Stimulates Collagen Production
Collagen is essential for repairing damage in my skeleton and ligaments. Shockwaves accelerate the production of collagen and force it into newly formed tendon fibers to make them firmer.
Patients tend to love shockwave therapy because it’s a fast treatment that doesn’t require a long-term commitment to weekly doctor’s visits the way some treatments do. The time to recover from treatment sessions is short compared to some other types of treatment, such as surgery, and the long-term results often last longer than those related to steroid injections or massage therapy.
It is also useful when combined with other treatment types, such as a customized rehabilitation plan from a physical therapist. Some people prefer it because it can be an excellent alternative to surgeries or prescription pain medications, which have several potential disadvantages, such as very long recovery times or the potential for addiction. Finally, shockwave treatment is often quite affordable.
How Often Does a Patient Need Shockwave Therapy Treatment?
For the best results from shockwave therapy for back pain, most patients will need multiple treatments. Although relief is often available right after the first treatment, it will not last long on its own. Most patients need at least three shockwave therapy appointments to experience lasting relief, and some require five or more appointments.
The time between appointments varies depending on how well you tolerate the therapy and your tissue’s response to the shockwaves. Typically, there are three to 10 days between each treatment. This means, someone who has three treatments with three days between them will be done in just over a week, while someone who needs five treatments and takes ten days between them will spend almost two months in treatment.
The amount and type of shockwave you receive are dependent upon the type of injury that you have. For example, if you are dealing with acute muscle spasms, you will typically receive continual pressure during your treatment, which could require up to four sessions spread over two weeks. On the other hand, someone who deals with chronic pain in the lower back will typically receive continual pressure for a more extended period of time each session. Treatment will require up to six sessions spread over about six weeks.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Shockwave Therapy for Back Pain?
While shockwave therapy is a safe and effective pain management treatment for many people, some exceptions exist. The treatment is not a safe option for people who have a blood clotting disorder, have a nerve disorder, have received a steroid injection within 12 weeks, or have taken anti-inflammatories within two weeks. It is also not a suitable treatment for pregnant, have had bone cancer or have an infection or metal plates in the affected area.
When our pain management doctors in Brooklyn meet with you, we will first take a complete medical history to determine if the therapy may suit your needs. Before administering the shockwave treatment, it is also essential to undergo a comprehensive examination. Shockwaves will not work for some acute injuries. Our doctors may first perform an ultrasound or prepare an MRI to ensure that the treatment is optimal to meet your needs.
What Should a Patient Expect During and After Shockwave Therapy?
The procedure itself is pretty simple. First, our specialist from Metro Healthcare Partners will locate the area you need to be treated. We do this with a palpation movement that helps to find the precise source of the pain. Next, we apply an ultrasound gel, which allows us to transfer the acoustic waves through the skin and start the pain. Finally, we use the shockwave applicator to apply pressure to the area so the lock will radiate throughout the area that requires treatment.
There typically isn’t much pain, although there may be some discomfort depending on how much pain the patient already has. However, the treatment is only about five to 10 minutes long, so most patients have no problem tolerating the discomfort. The treatment’s intensity is also adjustable as needed, so be sure to ask your specialist about adjustments if you feel that you need them. It is easier for you and your doctor to wear loose clothing during your treatment, as you may be lying on your side or front for treatment.
Most patients experience pain relief immediately after the treatment. Keep in mind, though, that some soreness can occur a few hours after the treatment. Still, this is the only “negative” side effect and usually only lasts for a day or so before overall relief occurs again. Patients should avoid physical activity for about two days after the treatment. Some patients may notice redness, swelling, or other inflammation at the treatment site. This is entirely normal and will likely go away within a day or two.
Schedule a Consultation Appointment Today
Don’t live your life in unnecessary pain. Let Metro Healthcare Partners determine if you are a candidate for shockwave therapy for back pain. Our pain management doctors in Brooklyn are experienced, professional, and compassionate. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and create an individualized treatment plan. We look forward to talking to you about your pain management needs and helping you find a shockwave therapy option that best meets your needs.