Key differences between the two modalities
Both laser therapy and shockwave therapy are used for treating soft tissue injuries and to decrease inflammation and pain to facilitate the healing process. However, there are some key differences between the two modalities:
Photonic energy delivery: Laser therapy imparts photonic energy into tissue to create photochemical changes at the mitochondrial level through photo-biomodulation (PBM), whereas therapeutic shockwave devices deliver high- energy sound waves into tissues.
Depth of Tissue: Shockwave is capable of targeting both superficial and deeper structures, whereas laser therapy’s effectiveness is limited to superficial structures.
Calcific tendonitis, also known as calcific tendinopathy, is a common cause of tendon pain that can affect various areas of the body, with the shoulder being the most frequently affected site, followed by the hip. Patients with calcific tendonitis who undergo shockwave therapy often experience a reduction in pain and improved function due to the break-up of the calcific deposits and promote faster healing.
Compatibility: While both laser and shockwave therapies have similar applications and exert similar properties on their target tissues, they are considered separate and yet compatible and complementary therapies.
Advantages of Shockwave therapy versus laser therapy
Shockwave therapy is a highly effective option for treating chronic tendinopathy, offering several advantages over laser therapy. Unlike laser therapy, shockwave
therapy can have a deeper and stronger effect and also break down calcified deposits, making it a more comprehensive solution for a wider range of conditions, especially stubborn conditions like insertional Achilles and proximal hamstrings tendinopathy.
While both laser therapy and shockwave therapy are non-invasive, drug-free, and have the potential to relieve pain and improve functionality and quality of life,
shockwave therapy offers a unique approach to treating tendinopathy, especially in chronic and stubborn cases.
If you are interested in learning more about the practical application of SWT, visit our training page with multiple courses on all key areas of MSK practice.
Benoy Mathew, MSc, MCSP
Advanced Practice Physio
MSK SWT Specialist
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