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Shockwave therapy for shoulder impingement

If you’re suffering from persistent shoulder pain that won’t go away, you may have a condition called shoulder impingement.

As a chiropractor with over 25 years of experience treating shoulder injuries, I have treated many patients with shoulder impingement through a treatment called shockwave therapy.

In this blog post, I’ll explain shoulder impingement, how shockwave therapy works, and why it may be a good option if you’ve tried other shoulder impingement treatments without success.

I’ll also discuss what to expect during shockwave therapy and some critical considerations regarding efficacy, safety, cost, etc.

What is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement occurs when your shoulder’s rotator cuff tendons or bursa become irritated or inflamed. It often happens due to repetitive shoulder motions or overuse injuries. When you raise your arm overhead, the affected tissues can get pinched or “impinged” against the bones in your shoulder joint. Common signs of shoulder impingement involve:
  • Discomfort when raising your arm over your head
  • Pain lying on your affected shoulder
  • Weakness, stiffness or instability in your shoulder joint
  • Dull aching pain even with your arm at rest
Shoulder impingement, if not appropriately treated, can progress to more severe ailments. The earlier it’s addressed, the better your chance of resolving symptoms and avoiding permanent shoulder damage.

How Shockwave Therapy Treats Shoulder Impingement

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses pulsating sound waves to treat painful conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. 

During shockwave therapy for shoulder impingement, a handheld device directs focused sound waves onto the affected area. These acoustic waves penetrate your shoulder tissues and help trigger the body’s healing response.

Specifically, shockwave therapy helps reduce inflammation, enhance blood flow, stimulate cell regeneration, and accelerate tissue repair. These effects help ease shoulder impingement symptoms like pain and stiffness reasonably quickly.

Clinical studies have found positive outcomes using shockwave therapy to treat rotator cuff tendonitis and shoulder bursitis—two common causes of impingement syndrome.

The Benefits of Shockwave Treatment for Shoulder Pain

There are numerous benefits of using shockwave therapy for shoulder impingement.

It's Non-Invasive

No incisions or injections are required. Treatment is performed outside the body and focused on your shoulder region.

It has Lasting Effects

Studies have shown that shoulder function improves significantly for at least a year after treatment is completed. Some patients enjoy pain relief for several years.

It is Secure and Well Accepted

Side effects are uncommon. Discomfort during the procedure is moderate and temporary. Therapy can be adjusted based on your pain feedback.

Shockwave therapy for shoulder impingement

It has a High Success Rate

Research indicates that>75% of patients see positive outcomes from shockwave therapy for shoulder issues like impingement syndrome and rotator cuff tears.

It Restores Mobility

Shockwave therapy can restore normal shoulder joint motion and flexibility by healing damaged tissues and reducing inflammation.

It Allows Patients to Remain Active

Treatment works quickly, so regular activity can often be resumed within a few weeks. No extended downtime is required.

With all these advantages, it’s no wonder many patients prefer shockwave therapy for persistent shoulder problems before considering surgery.

Is Shockwave Therapy Effective for Shoulder Impingement?

Yes, the results of several medical studies highlight the efficacy of using shockwave therapy for shoulder impingement:

A study published in a Pain Medicine Journal found that extracorporeal shockwave treatment (ESWT) significantly improved pain levels and shoulder functionality in patients with subacromial impingement syndrome (SIS). Participants showed considerable improvements in their Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI) scores covering areas like pain, everyday function, and overall condition.

Another study in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery evaluated outcomes of ESWT across four common shoulder problems, including rotator cuff issues, adhesive capsulitis, and calcific tendonitis. Patients in the rotator cuff and sticky capsulitis groups demonstrated substantial reductions in pain and enhanced shoulder range of motion and functionality after shockwave treatment.

What Does Shockwave Therapy Involve?

During your initial appointment, I’ll examine the root cause of your shoulder issues. From there, we can discuss whether shockwave therapy is the proper treatment approach for you.

If appropriate, we’ll develop a customized treatment plan outlining your prescribed therapy regimen. Most patients need 3-6 sessions scheduled every 1-2 weeks. However, it may be recommended depending on injury severity and treatment goals.

When you come in for shockwave therapy, the main steps involve:

  • Applying an ultrasound gel to your shoulder area to enhance conduction
  • Using the shockwave device to deliver gentle pulses of acoustic energy right to the source of your pain
  • Adjusting the intensity based on your feedback to ensure comfort and tolerability
  • Sending approximately 10-12 waves per therapy, depending on the problem.
  • Having you move your shoulder joint throughout treatment to optimize mobility

Shockwave therapy for shoulder impingement
You may feel some minor muscle soreness for 24-48 hours post-treatment. However, no extended downtime or sidelining of activities is required with shockwave therapy. Most patients report some degree of immediate pain relief, too.

Over your entire course of therapy, you can expect gradual restoration of shoulder function and progressively less impingement symptoms. Be sure to communicate any concerns promptly so we can modify the parameters to achieve the best possible outcome.

Related, Shockwave Therapy for Frozen Shoulder?

How Much Does Shockwave Therapy Cost?

Pricing can vary by provider, but my clinic offers competitive shockwave therapy rates. For shoulder impingement treatment, most patients invest around $500 total for 3 sessions.

It covers your entire series of appointments. Each extra session costs an additional $100.

Remember that extended medical insurance can assist in paying for some or all of your treatment. Contact your insurer to check plan coverage details before starting therapy.

Are There Any Restrictions?

While considered very safe overall, a few conditions may restrict someone’s eligibility for shockwave therapy:
  • Pregnancy: Treatment is not currently recommended for expectant mothers as a safety precaution.
  • Pacemakers or Defibrillators: Shockwaves could interfere with implantable heart devices. Alternative therapies may be safer options.
  • Osteoporosis: Those with advanced bone loss may be at higher risk for fractures. Shockwave intensity often needs modification as well.
  • Anticoagulant Medications: Patients on blood thinners face increased chances of bruising or bleeding internally post-treatment. Doctors may advise stopping the medication temporarily.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Shockwave therapy sparks the body’s natural inflammation response. So, recent steroid shots can impact efficacy.
  • Active Cancer: Insufficient evidence examining cancer interactions exists. More research is still needed regarding any treatment restrictions.
If any of these scenarios apply to you, disclose them before pursuing shoulder shockwave therapy. I can then determine if it’s contraindicated outright or whether parameters can be adapted to suit your situation.

The Takeaway: A Proven Shoulder Impingement Treatment

If shoulder impingement has you struggling with nagging pain and debilitating stiffness impacting your workouts and daily life, I encourage you to consider shockwave therapy for shoulder impingement.

This innovative approach has helped scores of patients find relief from their shoulder issues when other conservative treatments have failed.

With little risk of side effects plus convenient appointments and lasting results, shockwave therapy offers a safe way to help heal damaged tissues causing impingement. Most patients report significant improvement in just 3-6 sessions.

Shockwave therapy may facilitate faster recovery, whether you’re an athlete trying to rehab a painful rotator cuff injury or a weekend warrior desperate to swing a golf club again without shoulder agony. Contact my office today to see if it fits you well!


Meet Dr. Craig Eymann, a dedicated chiropractor and yoga enthusiast with over two decades of expertise in spinal health, sports chiropractic, and personalized care, prioritizing misalignment correction for swift injury resolution.

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Dr. Craig Eymann

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Musculoskeletal Injury Specialist

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