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Is Shockwave Therapy an Effective Treatment for Shoulder Tendinopathy?

Shockwave therapy for shoulder tendinopathy

Radial shockwave therapy (RSWT) can be a beneficial treatment for shoulder tendinopathy, which includes conditions like rotator cuff tendinitis, calcific tendinitis, and other forms of shoulder tendon pain. Here’s how RSWT can help:

Mechanism of Radial Shockwave Therapy

  1. Mechanical Stimulus: RSWT involves the application of low-energy shockwaves to the affected area. These shockwaves create a mechanical stimulus that can promote healing.

  2. Increased Blood Flow: The shockwaves enhance blood circulation to the treated area, which can accelerate the healing process by bringing more nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues.

  3. Stimulation of Healing Processes: The therapy can stimulate cellular activity, promoting the release of growth factors and enhancing tissue repair mechanisms.

  4. Reduction of Pain: RSWT can desensitise nerve endings, leading to a reduction in pain. This is thought to be due to a combination of analgesic effects and the promotion of healing processes.

Benefits of Radial Shockwave Therapy for Shoulder Tendinopathy

  1. Non-Invasive: RSWT is a non-invasive treatment option, which means it doesn’t involve surgery or injections. This makes it an attractive option for those seeking to avoid more invasive procedures.

  2. Improved Function: Patients often experience improved shoulder function and range of motion after a course of RSWT.

  3. Pain Relief: Many patients report significant pain reduction, which can enhance their quality of life and allow them to engage in daily activities with less discomfort.

  4. Stimulation of Healing: By promoting the body’s natural healing processes, RSWT can lead to long-term improvements in tissue health and function.

Clinical Evidence and Effectiveness

Research on RSWT has shown promising results for shoulder tendinopathy:

  1. Rotator Cuff Tendinitis: Studies have found that RSWT can effectively reduce pain and improve function in patients with rotator cuff tendinitis.

  2. Calcific Tendinitis: RSWT has been particularly effective in treating calcific tendinitis of the shoulder, where it can help break down calcium deposits and promote resorption.

  3. Overall Tendinopathy: General improvements in tendon health, pain reduction, and functional outcomes have been reported in various studies.

Treatment Protocol

A typical RSWT treatment protocol for shoulder tendinopathy might include:

  • Frequency: Treatments are usually administered once a week.

  • Duration: Each session may last around 10-20 minutes.

  • Number of Sessions: A course of 3-6 sessions is common, although this can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the patient's response to treatment.

Considerations and Precautions

  • Side Effects: Some patients might experience mild side effects such as transient pain, swelling, or bruising at the treatment site. These are typically short-lived.

  • Contraindications: RSWT is not suitable for everyone. Contraindications include certain vascular disorders, nerve disorders, infections at the treatment site, and pregnancy. It’s important to discuss your medical history with a healthcare provider.

  • Professional Guidance: RSWT should be administered by a trained professional, such as a physiotherapist or a specialist in sports medicine, to ensure safety and effectiveness.


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