Does Shockwave Therapy Work for Achilles Tendonitis?

You’re dealing with Achilles tendinopathy and traditional treatments aren’t cutting it. You’ve heard about shockwave therapy but are unsure if it’s effective. You’re not alone.

In this article, we’ll dive into the science behind this innovative treatment. We’ll compare the efficacy of radial and focused shockwave therapies, to help you make an informed decision. Is it the miracle cure you’re hoping for? Let’s find out.

Understanding Achilles Tendonitis

To understand whether shockwave therapy works for Achilles tendonitis, you’ll first need to grasp what Achilles tendonitis actually is. Achilles tendonitis, whether it’s midsubstance or insertional, is a common overuse injury. It’s typically the result of chronic overuse and repetitive microtrauma to the tendon, often leaving you with painful inflammation and fraying of the tendon due to a failed healing response. An accurate diagnosis is important because there can be specific changes to the treatment protocol depending on the site of injury.

Now, when conservative treatments, such as eccentric loading and stretching, fail to alleviate your symptoms, you might want to consider shockwave therapy. This treatment has emerged as a promising alternative, particularly for chronic tendonitis that hasn’t responded well to other treatments.

Focused shockwave therapy works by delivering a targeted beam of sound waves to the affected area. This increases blood flow and stimulates an inflammatory-mediated healing process. The goal is to kickstart your body’s natural healing process and repair the damaged tissue.

However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of this treatment can vary. The success largely depends on the specifics of your condition, like the severity of your Achilles tendonitis, and how well your body responds to the treatment. It’s always crucial to discuss these factors thoroughly with your healthcare provider before deciding on a treatment plan.

Traditional Treatments for Achilles Tendonitis

Before diving into shockwave therapy, let’s first look at your traditional treatment options for Achilles tendonitis. You’ve likely encountered common solutions like eccentric loading, stretching, heel lifts, and avoiding painful activities. You may also have been advised to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Multiple studies have shown that eccentric training can be effective for both insertional and non-insertional Achilles tendinopathy. However, traditional management isn’t always sufficient.

Achilles tendon damage typically stems from chronic overuse, which leads to accumulative impact loading and repetitive microtrauma. Despite the name, Achilles tendinitis isn’t exactly an inflammatory condition. The term tendinopathy is more accurate, encapsulating intrinsic and extrinsic damage to the tendon. This damage, including thickening and scar formation in the tendon, results from a failed healing response of the extracellular matrix.

If non-surgical treatments fail, soundwave therapy, which includes radial soundwave and extra-corporeal shockwave treatments, could be an alternative before resorting to surgery. In fact, given the success of this treatment modality, more often than not patients are opting to initiate treatment sooner after the onset of symptoms to prevent a protracted recovery and getting back to baseline athletics sooner rather than later. Soundwave therapy aims to increase blood flow to the treatment site and induce an inflammatory-mediated healing process. 

Overview of Shockwave Therapy

Often, you may find that conventional treatments don’t provide the relief you need for Achilles tendinopathy, prompting you to look into alternatives like shockwave therapy. This technique has emerged as a viable option when non-surgical treatments fail and before resorting to surgery.

Shockwave therapy includes radial soundwave (RSW) and extra-corporeal shockwave (ESWT) treatments. They’re used to treat foot pathologies like Achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis. These treatments work by increasing blood flow to the treatment site and inducing an inflammatory-mediated healing process.

Efficacy of Shockwave Therapy

Now, you’re probably wondering how effective shockwave therapy really is for treating Achilles tendinopathy. Studies have shown it to be a viable alternative when conservative treatments like stretching, heel lifts, or anti-inflammatory drugs don’t provide enough relief.

Shockwave therapy, including Radial Soundwave (RSW) and Extra-Corporeal Shockwave (ESWT), increases blood flow to the treatment site, triggering an inflammation-mediated healing process. However, it’s crucial to note that local anesthesia can alter this process, and is thus not used.

The benefit of combining radial and focused shockwave therapy

You might be curious about the potential benefits of combining radial and focused shockwave therapy for Achilles tendinopathy. Research shows that this combination can enhance the healing process.

Radial shockwave therapy (RSWT) addresses the pain commonly associated with this condition, while focused shockwave therapy (FSWT) targets the root cause of the injury. RSWT is known for its analgesic effect, providing immediate pain relief. This therapy tends to cover a wider area, reducing your pain and discomfort.

FSWT, on the other hand, is more precise. It’s designed to target the damaged tendon tissues, promoting regenerative processes at a cellular level and ultimately aiding in the repair of the tendon. Combining these therapies can offer a more comprehensive treatment approach.

While RSWT offers immediate respite, FSWT works on the long-term recovery of your tendon. Moreover, the use of both therapies might reduce the need for more invasive treatments like surgery. Remember, though, that individual results can vary.

It’s always recommended to discuss your condition and treatment options with a healthcare provider. They can gauge if the combination of RSWT and FSWT is appropriate for your specific situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Any Potential Side Effects or Risks Involved With Shockwave Therapy?

Yes, there are potential side effects from shockwave therapy. You might experience temporary soreness, swelling, or bruising. Always consult your doctor about potential risks.

How Long Does It Typically Take to See Results From Shockwave Therapy for Achilles Tendinopathy?

You’ll typically see results from shockwave therapy for Achilles tendinopathy within a few weeks. However, it can vary based on severity and individual response. It’s crucial to continue treatment as prescribed for best results.

Can Shockwave Therapy Be Combined With Traditional Treatments for Achilles Tendinopathy?

Yes, you can combine shockwave therapy with traditional treatments for Achilles tendinopathy. It’s been found to enhance healing when other conservative treatments aren’t enough. Always consult your doctor for personalized advice.

Are There Any Restrictions or Contraindications for Patients Considering Shockwave Therapy for Achilles Tendinopathy?

Yes, there are restrictions for shockwave therapy in Achilles tendinopathy. Local anesthesia is contra-indicated as it may alter the inflammatory response and angiogenesis that the therapy promotes. Always consult your doctor first.


In conclusion, shockwave therapy, including RSW and ESWT, shows promise in treating Achilles tendinopathy. Its efficacy, as supported by various studies, makes it a viable alternative when traditional non-surgical treatments fall short.

Combining radial and focused shockwave therapies can yield even better results.