Sometimes a person may get a musculoskeletal injury or a painful bony condition that over time becomes stubborn to treat. Even after trying a lot of conservative (non-surgical) methods and virtually relying on painkillers for the longest period, nothing may work to treat the condition. In those cases, something known as shockwave therapy can be tried.
It is a non-invasive, non-painful procedure and not at all as scary as it sounds. The number of sessions that a patient may need, the equipment used, and a lot of other factors govern the cost of the treatment. Similarly, there are several shockwave therapy machines from various companies and of varied specifications that influence its cost.
This article will walk you through what shockwave therapy is, all factors influencing the cost of shockwave therapy machines, and also the companies and models that you should know about that dominate this global market.
What Is Shockwave Therapy?
Commonly known as Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy or ESWT, it is a procedure of applying pressure waves in the area of the body that is injured. This is done via the shockwave therapy machine that generates these waves which then travel to the concerned part.
This potential method of treating musculoskeletal problems was introduced way back in the 1900s as a way to treat kidney stones by urologists. This method has been developed from ESWL or Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy, a method used to break kidney stones into smaller pieces so that they may pass out from the body easily. Though for kidney stones, it was used for destructive purposes, all their other uses are regenerative.
What Is Its Method of Action?
Through the shockwave therapy device, the shockwave is applied directly to the area of the skin over the injured part. The pressure or sound waves that are introduced are mechanical nonlinear waves that oscillate in three dimensions through space. These can travel through any medium i.e. solid, liquid, and gas.
They induce a sudden rise of pressure from ambient to maximum in the area. The waves cause a state of hyper anesthesia in the tissues i.e. the area is hyper-stimulated in such a way that there is reduced conduction of pain stimuli to the brain. This also allows for the reparative mechanism of the blood vessels to start and for the nervous system to restore its functions.
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Indications of Shockwave Therapy
Initially, these devices were used just for breaking down kidney stones i.e. for destructive purposes. Over time regenerative uses of these devices were introduced to assist in a variety of treatments.
The time of treatment by these devices and the frequency of sessions will depend on the condition of the patient and the recommendation by the physician. Healing and regeneration take time and the patient should factor that in.
For conditions of bones and tendons (fibrous tissue connecting muscles to bones), there should be no high impact or stress activities after undergoing the therapy which may impede the healing. Immobilization of the part needs to be done even after this therapy in cases of bone healing.
This therapy can be used to treat a vast number of conditions of the bone and soft tissue but the treatment should be done by certified physicians or technicians only, using only certified devices, as per the regulations of that area. The general guidelines for the procedure can be found at https://www.shockwavetherapy.org/about-eswt/ismst-guidelines.
Kinds of Shockwaves
Depending on the kinds of shock waves generated, they are of 2 kinds.
1. Focussed Shockwave Therapy (FSWT)
They focus their pressure field at a particular point of the tissue which is adjustable. The waves are generated in the water source which is present inside the device.
2. Radial Shockwave Therapy (RSWT)
As the name suggests, the maximum pressure is not at a point in the tissue but rather near the source of the waves. In this, there is a long tube of compressed air, which has an applicator at one end. An accelerated projectile hits the applicator which then transmits the generated pressure to the tissues in the body.
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The ESWT Procedure
First, the area with the most pain is located e.g. as in plantar fasciitis, by pressing over the area. In cases of bone regeneration or fracture healing, the area of the skin above the concerned part is located.
A little bit of ultrasound gel is applied to the area to act as a medium for the conduction of waves. The probe is then placed over the initially located area and is turned on for introducing the pressure pulses.
Different Shockwave Therapy Devices and Prices
There are many shockwave therapy devices in the market. All these machines have different global dominance as per the area they are available in, to where they are being manufactured.
It is important to understand here that there is no direct answer to ‘How much can a shockwave therapy machine cost?’. The costs of these devices and all big medical devices, in general, are greatly influenced by several factors. These factors are namely,
- Quality – Needless to say, the quality of the device is paramount for its longevity. A reputed branded product will naturally cost more than the one manufactured in China or assembled in other countries. The initial costs for the latter may be lesser but there will be additional costs of repeated repairs and replacement of its parts.
- Warranties – Most global companies offer international warranties for repairs and replacements. However, a device with a limited or expired warranty will add to the costs of the device, and in turn, affect the revenue generated from the same.
- Time of usage – These machines may have a limitation of how many hours they can be used in a day. So obviously, the machine that can give more working hours in a day may cost more than the other.
- Design variations – The simpler basic designs will be less expensive than the ones with touch screen panels, double handpiece attachments, and other fancy features.
- The patient needs – The machines designed for home usage will be less expensive than the ones made for commercial hospital setups.
Hence, it can be understood that no direct numbers can be quoted for the cost of these machines. There is great variation in the range of the economics of the machine, as well as consequently treatment costs.
But still, to give an insight into what these devices are like, below is a list of the most prominent companies in this area. All of these have a global presence in terms of the availability of their medical equipment.
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These machines can cost the physician or patient (for home use) a few hundred dollars, so it is always better to do an in-depth study about these devices before buying them. The prices vary from company to company and between different models. The following list includes some of the most prominent names of the companies and their devices.
- BTL Medical technologies – They have many models in the market such as BTL-6000FSWT, BTL-5000 SWT Power, BTL-6000 SWT Easy, etc. They have pressure up to 5bars and frequency up to 22Hz. They claim to have the strongest portable shockwave in the market i.e. 6000 series. The products can be viewed at their site, https://www.btlnet.com/products-physiotherapy-shockwave-therapy.
- Dornier Med Tech – Currently they have two devices in the market for ESWT which are Dornier Aries and Dornier Aries 2. These are award-winning designs and have proprietary technologies for orthopedic treatments. The details of the products can be seen at https://www.dornier.com/products/.
- Storz Medical – Their shockwave therapy devices are Duolith SD1 and D-Actor 100. Their units have touch-screen displays and also have the feature of storing previous data of the patients which can be easily retrieved on consequent patient visits. Their product details are available on their website https://www.karlstorzlitho.com/disciplines-and-products/orthopaedics/duolith-sd1-focused-shock-wave.html.
- Zimmer MedizinSysteme – This European company has the enPulsePro and enPulse 2.0 in its shockwave therapy equipment segment. These are radial shockwave therapy systems with high-energy pulses. Their devices are highly intuitive and two handpieces with different applicators can be attached to a device at the same time. More details about the devices are available at https://zimmer.de/en/products/physical-therapy/shockwave-therapy/enpuls-pro/.
- Electro Medical System (EMS) – They use Dolorclast radial shockwaves devices for shockwave treatment. In 1997, they patented the first radial shockwave device, which was the Swiss Dolorclast. More about their technology can be read at https://www.ems-dolorclast.com/03-dolorclastr-radial-shock-waves.
All in all, it is safe to say that shockwave therapy has the potential to treat various conditions of the bones, muscles, nervous tissue, tendons, and connective tissues (fibrous connecting bands).
The global market trends for the treatment using ESWT devices are very promising as more and more patients want to explore alternate means of therapy other than surgery. With positive results, quick short painless sessions, and the non-invasive nature of the treatment, this method has now rapidly become very popular among patients and physicians alike.