It makes the mind boggle; how did someone once realise that adding a lump of rock and some other chemicals, heat it up and suddenly you get molten metal to make all sorts with.
Medicine has taken some odd twists and turns and through doctors and clinicians being brave and experimenting it has provided lots of options to treat various human afflictions.
After the Second World War, some sailors in sunken ships were found to not have water in their lungs. This meant that they had died before the ship was submerged. So what ended these poor unfortunate sailors lives? It was found that a torpedo hitting the ship created a huge shockwave that ruptured internal organs and caused a loss of life.
In the 1980’s some doctors thought that by using a focused shockwave that the specific energy could be used to break down kidney and bile stones – lithotripsy was born and many people have been saved operations by its use. In the early days you sat in a tin bath with water and the treatment was incredibly painful.
Thankfully the machines have advanced now and you can lie on a bed rather than a cold tin bath. Later down the line some surgeons thought about changing the machines a bit more and using them for tendon and fascia problems. Now many healthcare providers around the country use shockwave machines to help people get better with painful tendon problems and plantar fascia issues.
Even more recently some clinicians have been trying to use these machines to treat other conditions – ones where you wouldn’t naturally think the machines would work. One of those areas is osteoarthritis. This is a condition where the cartilage covering the bone at a joint gets worn and the underlying bone gets a larger honeycomb appearance to it and is weakened. This typically causes pain and stiffness that is from inflammation caused by the damage. It is a long-term condition and often thought of as non-reversible and progressive.
So why would someone think to use shockwave on it? Well the effect on our tissues from the shockwaves produced by the machine appears to do several very beneficial things. By shaking up the tissues it encourages more blood flow to the area that brings in more goodies into the affected area and flushes more waste products out from the damaged area. It seems to stimulate the body to kick-start its own repair mechanisms and produces chemicals that give pain relief and can press the ‘reset’ button on our pain system in the brain.
There appears to be very good results so far in using this form of treatment to slow down or holt the rate of the diseases progression, increase peoples joint mobility and function and give people better quality of life. Research seems to be backing up the initial thoughts of the clinicians who tried it.
If ‘dem bones’ of yours are giving you some grief from osteoarthritis then why not give them a bit of a shake up and try something a little different to help create a wave of helpful healing for your body.
Robert Grainger MSc MCSP MHPC CSCS
Practice Principal PhysioFixx Physiotherapy Clinic