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  • Writer's pictureTammy Boucher, BSc. PT

Shockwave Therapy: Radial vs Focused

As shockwave therapy becomes increasingly more popular in various healthcare fields, not only in Canada but all around the world, more and more clinics are showing interest in offering this treatment.

Recently, I’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries on the differences involved between Radial Shockwave Therapy (RSWT) and Extracorporeal – or Focused – Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) and thought I could share my knowledge with you on our blog.

But first, let’s have a look at the history of shockwave therapy.

A Little Bit of History

The effects of shockwaves on the human body first became apparent during World War II when mines were detonated off-shore, affecting people who were swimming at a nearby beach.

Despite no outer physical trauma, some people experienced lung disruption as a result of the shockwaves generated by the explosions.

After years of research and testing, focused shockwave therapy was developed and used for the first time for kidney stone disintegration (lithotripsy) by shattering them using a high-power shockwave device in a controlled manner.

After nearly 15 years of using focused shockwave to treat musculoskeletal injuries and pathologies, as we entered the new millennium, a new and less invasive kind of shockwave therapy was introduced: Radial shockwave therapy.

Same, but Different

A shockwave is an acoustic wave that carries high energy to the painful area and provokes the body’s healing and repair processes.

While the stimulation effects and therapeutic mechanism are fairly similar for both approaches, they differ in their physical characteristics and in the technique used for generating the shockwave.

Focused shockwave uses electromagnetic or piezoelectric technology. It was developed to reach internal organs guided by X-ray or ultrasound (medical imaging technique). It requires an anesthetic and very accurate precision when applying it.

Radial shockwave, however, uses pneumatic technology where a projectile is accelerated in its guide tube by high-pressure pneumatic technology. The projectile hits the transmitter at the end of the applicator and emits the shockwave.

Also referred to as soft shockwave, Radial shockwave is designed for more superficial treatment, is less painful when administered and as a result doesn’t require an analgesic during treatment.

This therapy is most commonly used in orthopedics, rehabilitation and sports medicine but can also be used for veterinary, aesthetics and urology care.

Interested in Learning More?

We’re offering multiple workshops across Canada in 2017 on radial shockwave therapy in partnership with Shockwave Training Canada and BTL Physiotherapy.

During this 4-hour workshop, you will learn the physics principle behind these two modalities and the practical therapeutic applications and treatments on most common indications.

To learn more about these and to register workshops, click here!


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