Answering Your Frequent Questions About Shockwave Therapy

by | Oct 28, 2019

If you’ve ever had an appointment at Family Foot & Ankle Center, you’re probably aware of our treatment philosophy regarding non-surgical care. In short, we’ll always start with the most conservative options first, and then do everything in our power to resolve your condition without resorting to surgery.

In order to keep this promise to our patients, we invest heavily in advanced non-surgical treatment options for cases that aren’t responding to more traditional conservative therapies. And one of the most effective and exciting technologies available at our office is radial shockwave therapy, or RSWT.

Naturally, with a name like “shockwave,” our patients have many questions about this particular procedure—and we’re happy to answer them!

What Is RSWT and How Does It Work?

RSWT is a non-invasive treatment option that may be appropriate for certain types of soft tissue pain and injury.

The unit itself consists of a central machine that generates the acoustic “shockwaves,” which travel through a cable to a handheld applicator that’s placed on your skin, above the site of pain.

Those acoustic waves distribute mechanical forces deep into the injured tissues, where they trigger your body to accelerate its natural healing functions. This includes the formation of new blood vessels, boosted cellular metabolism, and breakdown of scar tissue.

What Conditions Can Be Treated with RSWT?

RSWT is most effective as a treatment for enthesopathic conditions. That’s a fancy way of saying, essentially, “any condition involving the attachment of tendons, ligaments, or other connective tissues to bones.”

The two most common examples of enthesopathy in the feet and ankles are the heel pain conditions plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis:

  • Plantar fasciitis involves inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament underneath the foot, where it connects with the heel bone.
  • Achilles tendinitis involves inflammation or degeneration of the Achilles tendon along the back of the heel, where it inserts into the heel bone.

However, RSWT may be appropriate for other kinds of soft tissue injuries, chronic pain, and trigger points through the feet and ankles.

Who Is a Good Candidate for the Procedure?

RSWT is usually recommended for patients with chronic pain that has not responded to simpler forms of conservative care, such as other forms of physical therapy (stretching, massage, etc.) or custom orthotics.

We find that in most cases, RSWT can bring significant healing and relief for these patients with more severe or stubborn cases of chronic pain and keeps them out of surgery.

Athletes and those with physically demanding occupations or hobbies may also benefit from starting RSWT earlier in the treatment process. That’s because, when combined with traditional therapies, RSWT can often significantly accelerate the healing process, allowing patients to return to their regular activities faster.

Is It Painful? Are There Any Needles? What Are the Risks?

RSWT is an extremely safe and comfortable procedure. No needles or medications of any kind are required for the treatment—not even anesthesia.

The vast majority of patients do not experience pain during the application of the shockwaves; at worst, there may be some minor discomfort, especially if the area being treated is already moderately painful. Since treatment sessions are very brief, this discomfort tends to be very well tolerated.

There are no known serious side effects or potential complications for radial shockwave therapy—as we said, it is very safe. Pregnancy is the most common contraindication, but otherwise there are very few disqualifying conditions.


What Can I Expect from Treatment?

RSWT is most effective when carried out over a series of treatment sessions spaced over a few weeks or months. The sessions themselves are very brief—sometimes as little as five minutes.

Your doctor will help you determine the number and frequency of sessions that will be required. A fairly typical treatment course might include 3-5 total sessions, performed once per week, although this can vary depending on the type and severity of your condition.

It’s important to understand that, because RSWT is triggering your body’s natural healing and tissue regeneration processes (as opposed to simply dulling symptoms), it will take some time to feel the full effects of the treatment. Your body needs a chance to heal. Although you may notice some improvement right away, the maximum results may take a few weeks to a month or two.

That said, this also means that the effects of repeated treatment sessions are cumulative. Even if you don’t feel that much better after the first session, be patient—results should continue to improve after each subsequent session.

Is Radial Shockwave Therapy Right for Me?

If you are suffering from chronic heel pain that hasn’t seemed to respond to rest or other treatments, there is an excellent chance that RSWT may help you find the relief you need.

That said, it’s also just one of the many advanced treatments we have to help you here at Family Foot & Ankle Center. A thorough, accurate evaluation of your feet and ankles by one of our expert podiatrists is a necessary first step to determining an appropriate, customized treatment plan for your condition and lifestyle.

To schedule an appointment with us, give our Upland, CA office a call today at (909) 920-0884, or request an appointment online.


984 W. Foothill Blvd, Suite B
Upland, California 91786

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