Radial pressure wave (RPW) therapy uses ultrasound technology to treat bone and soft tissue injuries. Also known as shockwave therapy, RPW therapy sends high-energy acoustic (sound) waves into the treatment area to help reduce muscle pain and aches and promote healing without surgery or medication.

Shockwave therapy dates back to the 1980s, when it was first used to treat kidney stones with a procedure called lithotripsy. By targeting the wave energy at the kidney stones from outside the body, doctors broke the stones into fragments, which were then passed from the body through the urinary system. Lithotripsy has become a leading treatment for kidney stones, replacing invasive surgery in many cases.

In the last two decades, shockwave therapy has increasingly been used for treating musculoskeletal disorders. The wave hits the body at skin surface and travels to a depth of around 2”, where it creates oscillations – repetitive back-and-forth movements – in the tissue. This stimulates blood supply and cell growth in the damaged area, leading to the regeneration of healthy tissue and bone.1

In the last two decades, shockwave therapy has increasingly been used for treating musculoskeletal disorders.

Potential Benefits of RPW

RPW therapy has been shown to safely and significantly reduce tendon pain and improve functionality and quality of life without surgery or medication.2 It is non-invasive and has no known adverse side effects. RPW treatments generally take place in the therapist’s office or clinic using devices such as the Intelect Mobile® 2 RPW and Intelect® RPW 2. Portable RPW devices allow treatment to be given anywhere.

During RPW, the clinician applies a gel to the treatment area that allows the RPW applicator to glide smoothly over the skin. Then gently applies pressure to the area with the RPW applicator. Treatment takes just a few minutes; naturally, larger areas will take longer to treat. Patients typically have three to four treatments.

What is it used for?

RPW therapy has been shown to help improve pain in various musculoskeletal conditions.3-10

  • Hip pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Elbow pain
  • Knee pain
  • Achilles tendon pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Myofascial trigger points
  • Disorder of tendon insertion

If you have musculoskeletal pain that has not been helped by other treatments, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about RPW therapy.

  1. Wang CJ. An Overview of Shock Wave Therapy in Musculoskeletal Disorders. Chang Gung Med J. 2003;26(4):220–232
  2. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6029898/.)
  3. Cristina d’Agostino M et al. Shock wave as biological therapeutic tool: From mechanical stimulation to recovery and healing, through mechanotransduction. Int J Surg. 2015 Dec;24(Pt B):147-53.
  4. Damian M et al. Trigger point treatment with radial shock waves in musicians with nonspecific shoulder-neck pain: data from a special physio outpatient clinic for musicians. Med Probl Perform Art. 2011 Dec;26(4):211-7.
  5. Beyazal MS et al. Comparison of the effectiveness of local corticosteroid injection and extracorporeal shock wave therapy in patients with lateral epicondylitis. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Dec;27(12):3755-8.
  6. Cacchio A et al. Effectiveness of Radial Shock-Wave Therapy for Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder: Single-Blind, Randomized Clinical Study. Phys Ther. 2006 May;86(5):672-82.
  7. Rompe JD et al. Eccentric Loading Versus Eccentric Loading Plus Shock-Wave Treatment for Midportion Achilles Tendinopathy. A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Sports Med. 2009 Mar;37(3):463-70.
  8. Furia JP et al. A single application of low-energy radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy is effective for the management of chronic patellar tendinopathy. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2013 Feb;21(2):346-50.
  9. Gerdesmeyer L et al. Radial Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy Is Safe and Effective in the Treatment of Chronic Recalcitrant Plantar Fasciitis. Results of a Confirmatory Randomized Placebo-Controlled Multicenter Study. Am J Sports Med. 2008 Nov;36(11):2100-9.
  10. Rompe JD et al. Home Training, Local Corticosteroid Injection, or Radial Shock Wave Therapy for Greater Trochanter Pain Syndrome. Am J Sports Med. 2009 Oct;37(10):1981-90.

More references available at clinicalstudies@DJOglobal.com