What is extracorporeal shock wave therapy?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy, or ESWT, has emerged as a possible treatment option for patients with chronic plantar fasciitis. ESWT delivers focused shock waves to the body. There is both a high-energy and low-energy form of ESWT; and both forms of shock wave therapy can be used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.

Low-energy shock wave treatments are given as a series of three or more treatments. The low-energy shock waves are not painful, or mildly painful. On the other hand, the high-energy shock wave treatments are given at one session. High-energy shock wave treatments are quite painful, and some type of anesthesia is needed. Either a regional block or general anesthesia can be administered for the high-energy treatments.

ESWT was approved by the FDA for the treatment of plantar fasciitis in 2000. Since that time, numerous studies have investigated the use and the effectiveness of shock wave treatments. Some patients have great success with the treatment; others not so. As with most treatments, you have to have a good discussion with the doctor who's treating your pain and understand what is your best option.

Shock wave therapy is quite expensive, and whether or not it is an effective treatment is controversial. Each individual treatment can cause in excess of $1000, and insurance companies may not necessarily cover the expense. Therefore, patients who wish to have these treatments may end up paying for them out of pocket. As with any treatment, be sure to check with your insurance provider. Better to be safe than sorry!  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.