Types of Musculoskeletal Shockwave Therapy

In this article, we will explore the two primary types of shockwave therapy: radial and focused. We will also discover the mechanisms behind each therapy, their applications, and which conditions they are most effective in treating. You will also gain insights into the differences in penetration depth, localization, comfort levels, and the number of sessions needed for optimal results.

Are you ready to experience the benefits of shockwave therapy for yourself? Schedule your appointment with Brotzman Sports Medicine in Austin, Texas, by calling 512-977-0000, where our expert doctor specializes in advanced musculoskeletal treatments, including shockwave therapy. Take the first step towards effective relief and accelerated healing, and reclaim your active lifestyle today!

S. Brent Brotzman, MD

Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialist located in Austin, TX

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What is Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) offers a promising solution for chronic and acute pain stemming from a lack of adequate tissue healing in numerous musculoskeletal ailments using low-energy shockwave therapy. It is a non-invasive treatment that was originally developed from extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), which uses ultrasound shock waves to break down kidney stones.

Your provider will use a small device that emits gentle acoustic waves to the injured area. These waves will cause non-painful micro-stress or micro-trauma that stimulate a large influx of angiogenesis or new blood supply. This new blood supply increases the amount of local stem cells and growth factors, initiating a new and magnified healing response.

What is Radial Shockwave Therapy?

Radial Shockwave Therapy utilizes a combination of ultrasonic pulses, audio-acoustic pulses, and slow shear waves. The radial ESWT device often resembles a science fiction laser gun. It houses a projectile that accelerates within the barrel. Upon collision with the applicator tip, this projectile generates an energy pulse, which is then transmitted to the skin, creating a radial wave that spreads outward across the treated area.

The radial pressure waves are at their highest intensity and energy density at the tip of the applicator. As these pressure waves go deeper into the tissue, they become weaker. Therefore, radial shockwave therapy is good for superficial conditions.

Studies have shown radial shockwaves to be effective in treating the following conditions:

  • Healing of skin burns and heavy scarring 
  • Stress fractures
  • Shin splints
  • Delayed union or nonunion of bone fractures
  • Bone healing and bone growth 
  • Chronic non-healing tendon issues, such as:
    • Achilles tendinosis and tendinitis
    • Hamstring injuries 
    • Tennis elbow
    • Golfer’s elbow
    • Plantar fasciitis
    • Patella’s tendon jumper’s knee
    • Hip abductor tendinitis

While radial shockwave therapy can yield favorable outcomes for conditions close to the skin’s surface, it is not as effective at reaching the very deep areas of the body. This is one difference compared to Focused-ESWT.

What is Focused Shockwave Therapy?

Focused shock wave therapy, also known as Focused Shockwaves, is a specialized treatment that can penetrate deeper into the body’s soft tissues than radial waves. This allows the doctor to target specific tissues that are much deeper in the body.

Focused shockwaves can pass through the skin without dispersing, thereby providing a more concentrated application to the intended area. This precision makes it particularly effective for addressing issues affecting deeper tissues, such as hip conditions. 

With its effectiveness in reaching the deeper areas of the body, Focused Shockwave Therapy offers an additional solution for various musculoskeletal ailments.

Radial vs Focused Shockwave Therapy

The differences between radial pressure wave and focused shock wave therapy are the penetration depth and the applied area of the treatment.

Radial shock wave therapy provides a lower maximum intensity, but the waves spread over a larger distance. The treatment is ideal for providing relief over a wider area and treating many issues that can be reached at lower depths, such as tendon and bone conditions. Perhaps the only drawback is that pressure waves lose power as they penetrate deeper into the tissue. 

In contrast, focused shock wave therapy produces waves that are closer together with a higher intensity. These can reach the deeper tissues, making it ideal for treating pelvic or hip issues.

Ultimately, the choice between radial and focused shock wave therapy depends on the depth and localization of the condition being treated, with each method offering unique advantages for different clinical scenarios.

How Many Sessions Are Needed?

The number of sessions you will require depends on the condition as well as its severity.

Schedule Your Shockwave Therapy Today

Are you ready to take control of your musculoskeletal health and experience the transformative benefits of shockwave therapy? Don’t wait any longer—schedule your appointment today with Brotzman Sports Medicine in Austin, Texas. We’ll let you know how to prepare for your shockwave appointment

Our dedicated team of sports medicine specialists is here to guide you on your journey to recovery and help you achieve your optimal physical well-being. Don’t let pain hold you back! Contact us now and start your path toward a healthier, happier you!

Medically reviewed by
S. Brent Brotzman, MD


Words from our patients