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Shockwave Spotlight

23 Nov 2020

by Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt (Animal Physio.), CAFCI, CCRT



Have you heard that noisy machine in the therapist treatment rooms?  Maybe your dog has gotten to experience it as well!  We’re talking about Shockwave!  It’s a therapy as exciting as it sounds!  


There are actually two different kinds of shockwave – Focused and Radial.  Focused is a dialed down therapeutic version that stems from lithotripsy (i.e. how they blast away kidney stones or the like).  Radial shockwave is also called Pressure Wave, because it doesn’t focus its energy at a target deeper inside the body.  Instead, its energy is delivered at the surface and a pressure wave is created that stimulates the tissues underneath.  


The Canine Fitness Centre has a RADIAL shockwave unit, so it makes sense to focus there and tell you a bit more about it!


Firstly, what is shockwave used for?

To keep it simple, I’ll group it’s uses into categories.  Shockwave has shown to be effective on muscle and tendon problems, osteoarthritis, back pain, and non-union bone fractures.  These findings are in both human and animal studies.


What does shockwave do to the body?

It’s been shown that shockwave helps by increasing blood flow to an area and with the formation of new blood vessels.  It helps with the release of the growth factor hormone (which helps with wound and tissue healing) and creates a small inflammatory reaction that triggers the body to heal a particular area.  Shockwave can also stimulate the stem cells in the bone (needed to trigger bone healing) and can inhibit nerve transmission in the area (which can help with pain management).


What conditions absolutely shouldn’t receive shockwave?

The list of contraindications for Radial shockwave is shorter than for focused shockwave.  Essentially, we would not shockwave over a pregnant uterus, over a known cancer, or in a patient with a bleeding disorder.


Other questions you might have about Shockwave


Does my animal need to be sedated to use the RPW Shockwave?

•No!  That’s the beauty of radial shockwave!


Are the dogs / animals afraid of the machine?

•It’s loud and a bit of an odd sensation, so it’s good to acclimatize the dog to it before applying it to the painful area.


How do you acclimatize the dog to the Shockwave?

•I’ve found the following sequence to work well to acclimatize dogs.  Firstly, I turn on the machine on ME (so the dog can hear it first).  Secondly, put the applicator on the dog sideways, so they feel the vibration but not the pressure.  Next, I direct the applicator towards the dog but on a fleshy part (i.e. quads, hams, triceps).  Then finally, I redirect it to be over the part I want to treat.


Is it painful?

•Radial shockwave should not be painful.  If we (you and the therapist) think the animal has pain with the shockwave and not just anxiety, then first we’ll turn down the intensity.  If the animal still expresses pain, I might try applying some shocks to a non-painful area and gauge the reaction.  If he or she has the same reaction in a non-painful area, then the animal might just be anxious about the noise or ‘weird’ sensation.  If the dog does not express pain at the non-painful area, then we can either re-evaluate the patient, or try again with an even lower intensity.  This is a scenario where we find it important to use our professional judgment.


What to expect after a treatment?

•It is important to note that we are creating an irritation and stimulating tissue.  The animal MAY be more sore immediately after treatment (but not always).  The animal should not remain sore through to the next day however.  If soreness persists beyond a day, we can simply reduce the intensity on the next appointment.  



If you have more questions about Shockwave Therapy, please feel free to reach out to use or ask your therapist about this treatment tool!  We are always happy to help!




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