Fractures of the 5th metatarsal are common and often heal uneventfully. However, if the fractured bone ends have been stripped away from blood vessels, they won’t have access to the nutrients that are necessary to heal. The result is nonunion, which can cause pain, swelling, deformity, and loss of functionality.

And while 5th metatarsal nonunion fracture surgery is oftentimes successful, there are still risks of neurovascular injury, infection, bleeding, and stiffness.

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive alternative to 5th metatarsal nonunion fracture surgery. By targeting the affected area with acoustic pressure waves, shockwave therapy can enhance blood flow, stimulating cells responsible for healing damaged bone and tissue.

Shockwave Therapy vs 5th Metatarsal Nonunion Fracture Surgery

Intramedullary screw fixation is considered to be the gold standard for 5th metatarsal nonunion fracture surgery. However, complications such as refracture, symptomatic hardware, and sural nerve injury can follow intramedullary screw fixation.

A study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery compared shockwave therapy to intramedullary screw fixation for nonunion of proximal 5th metatarsal metaphyseal-diaphyseal fractures.

Twenty-three patients received shockwave therapy while 20 other patients received intramedullary screw fixation. Three months after treatment, 20 of the 23 nonunions in the shockwave group were healed and 18 of the 20 nonunions in the intramedullary screw fixation group were healed. One of the three in the shockwave group that didn’t heal in three months, healed after six months.

However, there were 11 complications in the intramedullary screw fixation group, including one refracture, one case of cellulitis, and nine cases of symptomatic hardware.

Researchers concluded that while both intramedullary screw fixation and shockwave therapy are effective treatments, intramedullary screw fixation “is more often associated with complications that frequently result in additional surgery.”

Treat More Patients With Fewer Complications

Not only is shockwave therapy an ideal alternative to 5th metatarsal nonunion fracture surgery, but it can also treat many other musculoskeletal disorders without drugs or surgery. Physiotherapists, chiropractors, and other healthcare professionals use shockwave therapy to treat tendinopathies, plantar fasciitis, myofascial pain, and more.

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