Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ECSWT)

What is it?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ECSWT) is now an established treatment alternative for many bone and soft tissue disorders in the elbow. Extracorporeal means ‘outside the body’.

How does it work?

A hand-held probe is used to deliver sound waves to the painful area. The shock wave is generated through a focused impulse that targets the pain. In studies this has been shown to reduce the quantity of nerve fibres that transmit painful impulses, causing a reduction in pain sensation. It can also lead to an increase in the tissue healing process, increasing the formation of new blood vessels. 

What conditions can be treated with shock wave therapy?

The main conditions that are treated with shock wave therapy include tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. It is also sometimes used for treating fractures that have failed to heal successfully, such as displaced fractures.

How is treatment carried out?

No anaesthetic is required. A small amount of gel is applied to the skin which helps the machine transmit impulses to the painful area. The machine is then switched on and the shock wave probe is pressed lightly onto the skin to deliver the rapid impulses.

Is it painful?

In the majority of cases it is uncomfortable rather than painful. To ease any symptoms, your specialist may advise that you take painkillers before your treatment.

How long does treatment take?

Each session typically lasts 5-15 minutes. The number of sessions required will vary; most people need around three sessions every week for xxxx weeks.

What are the risks?

There is no risk of infection from wound complications and the procedure is considered completely safe, with potentially huge benefits.

What if it doesn’t work?

Most surgeons will use shockwave therapy after other non-operative treatments have failed. If shockwave therapy doesn’t work, the next step is usually surgery.