How are shockwaves generated?
Specialist shockwave therapy machines are used to generate the shockwaves. This can be done in a few different ways depending on the type of shockwave and machine.
Radial shockwaves, also called radial pressure waves, are usually created pneumatically. Pressure built up by compressed air or gas is used to push an element of the device into another at a very high speed. The collision of the two elements creates the shockwave over the patient’s skin, which can be heard as an audible click. This is then repeated at a high rate.
Radial shockwaves are the original type of shockwave used in orthopaedics. The radial shockwaves are strongest at their source and disperse as they are directed into the tissue. They have a maximum penetrating depth of 50mm, and so are usually used to treat shallow or superficial injuries.
Focused shockwaves, a newer technology, are generated by electrohydraulic, piezoelectric or electromagnetic shock wave generators. Storz Medical’s Duolith range produces focused shockwaves using an electromagnetic cylindrical coil combined with a reflector in the form of a rotation paraboloid to focus the shockwaves.
This provides a very accurate focal zone in both depth and laterally and due to the comparatively large aperture of the shockwave source relative to the focus size, the wave can be introduced the the body over a large coupling area, reducing pain to an almost unnoticeable amount. Focused shockwaves are used for conditions which require a deeper treatment depth or stronger shockwaves. It also typically requires less sessions to see an effective result and is better at treating chronic conditions.