Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) in orthopedics and traumatology is still a young therapy method. In the last few years the development of shock wave therapy was very fast and successful. Meanwhile ESWT has gained acceptance within the orthopedic community. Today physicians have an overview of several ten thousand treated patients worldwide.
Although the healing mechanism of ESWT for treatment of the established indications like epicondylitis or heel spur is not completely understood, ESWT has changed medical therapy substantially. Advantages of ESWT are avoidance of surgeries, safety and effectiveness. Compared to open surgery the costs of the ESWT are very reasonable. But nevertheless it's necessary to improve the basic understanding of the biological and medical effects of shock waves in cooperation between institutes, hospitals, physicians, societies and manufacturer of ESWT devices.
Shock waves are specific acoustic waves, which accompany our daily life without being noticed. The cracks of thunders, bangs of explosions or noise of applauding crowds are typical examples of shock waves. Earthquakes and collapses of cavitation bumbles generate shock waves. An airplane, which breaks the sound barrier, generates a very loud bang, which can lead to the jingle of glasses in a cupboard, the shock wave has transmitted energy from the airplane to the glasses.
The opportunity to transmit mechanical energy by shock waves led to different technical and medical applications. Here the physical basics and the merits of medical ESWT are described in various indications, except urological lithotripsy, which is not primary focus of the ISMST.
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