ESWT has been used in human medicine for a number of years to treat many orthopaedic conditions such as tennis elbow, shoulder and heel injuries.
The technique has been used more recently in equine orthopaedics to treat conditions such as proximal suspensory desmitis (inflamed suspensory ligament), suspensory branch insertional injuries, bucked-shins and impinging dorsal spinous processes.
The shock waves are created, emitted and directed onto the injured area. When the shock waves meet interfaces of different impedance (i.e. bone/soft tissue interface) changes within the tissue are created. These include an increase in blood flow, direct cellular effects, activation of osteogenic factors (the process of laying down new bone) and a direct analgesic effect.
The treatment can be useful in cases of chronic pain that have been refractory to conventional treatment and typically involves three treatments at two week intervals.
ESWT is now well accepted as a useful non-invasive treatment for angular limb deformity in young growing foals.