Shock Wave Therapy

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) can be used especially for calcifications, pain of tendon insertions and poorly healing bone fractures.

Which diseases do we treat?

  • Shoulder: tendon calcifications (radiologically visible)
  • Elbow: Epicondylopathia humeri radialis and ulnaris (tennis/golfer’s elbow)
  • Finger: soft tissue calcifications
  • Hip: trochanteric calcifications, insertion tendinopathy at the greater trochanter or tuber ischiadicum
  • Knee: Patellar tendinopathy, insertion tendinopathy tuberositas tibiae
  • Foot: heel pain: fasciitis plantaris, achillodynia
  • Bones: Poor fracture healing, non-union, pseudoarthrosis (with osteosynthesis material) and stress fractures of the limb bones.

What is the treatment procedure?

ESWT is performed in our clinic on an outpatient basis and without local or general anesthesia. Usually, three sessions are performed at least one week apart. Each session lasts about 30 minutes.

Prior to the ESWT, an initial consultation is held to determine whether ESWT is possible and promising. The procedure is then discussed and a cost approval is obtained (ESWT is not a mandatory benefit of the basic health insurance. Depending on the supplementary insurance, the costs may be covered).

What is special about our device?

Ärztin während der StosswellenbehandlungThe device, which is used at the University Hospital Zurich, is characterized by an inline ultrasound and a coupled X-ray image intensifier. This means that during the shock wave treatment, ultrasound and X-ray images can be used to continuously check whether the target area is precisely in focus. This is particularly important when treating a very localized calcification, a tendon insertion or a bone fracture gap. When treating slowed fracture healing (non-union, pseudoarthrosis), the osteosynthesis material can be left in the bone. The shock waves are applied to the fracture gap with great precision. Another special feature of this device is the very high energy (pressure up to 300 bar) and high penetration depth up to 15 cm. Experience shows that 2/3 of all patients are very satisfied with this therapy.

What are shock waves?

Shock waves are audible sound waves with very high energy. These sound waves are generated in the shock wave device and transmitted to the body through a water cushion. This therapy method became known through kidney stone disintegration. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) not only reduces calcifications, it is also used for painful tendon insertions and poorly healing bone fractures. For this purpose, the shock waves are focused, i.e. set with great precision to the area to be treated.

How do shock waves work?

The shock waves create a very high pressure, this causes tension in the tissue, which leads to a biological reaction. Blood circulation is increased, metabolism improves, and damaged tissue regenerates and heals.

What are the risks?

Temporary reddening of the skin may occur during shock wave therapy. In rare cases, the discomfort may worsen during a few days. Shock wave therapy itself does not cause radiation exposure. X-rays are used in low doses only to find the calcification or bone fracture.

Responsible doctors

Brigitte Magdalena Küchler, Dr. med.

Attending Physician, Department of Rheumatology

Tel. +41 44 255 26 87
Specialties: FMH Rheumatology, FMH Allg. Internal medicine, Certificate of competence in musculoskeletal sonography (SGUM)

Aylin Canbek, Dr. med.

Attending Physician, Department of Rheumatology

Tel. +41 44 255 26 87
Specialties: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Radiosynoviorthesis, Specialist in general internal medicine and rheumatology

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Responsible Department