When there is a significant injury to a peripheral nerve that severely impacts its continuity, the treatment is often bridging the defect with an autologous nerve graft, which requires a nerve be taken from elsewhere on the patient’s body. This is an invasive treatment that carries a risk of the patient losing function at the location of where the substitute nerve was taken. Moreover, in cases where nerve regeneration was unsuccessful, patients experienced inflammatory and oedematous microenvironments.

Experimental strategies, such as the use the artificial tubes, scaffolds, and neurotrophic substances, are used to facilitate nerve regeneration, but there is debate regarding their use, effectiveness, and side-effects.

Shockwave therapy, which uses acoustic sound waves to increase metabolism and blood circulation to a targeted area, offers a non-invasive alternative for nerve regeneration. Lab studies have shown shockwave therapy enables a faster rate of axonal regeneration, an improved clearance of degenerated axons, and a stronger ability of damaged axons to repair.

In one study, forty rats received an 8 mm long homotopic nerve autograph into the right sciatic nerve. They were then divided into two groups of twenty. One group received shockwave therapy while the second control group did not.

Three weeks after surgery, electrophysiological observations revealed marked values of amplitude and compound nerve action potential in the shockwave therapy group, while the control group showed no detectable amplitudes. The shockwave therapy group also had significantly greater umbers of myelinated nerve fires in the distal stump compared to the control group at this point. Also, the nerve grafts of the control group had large numbers of phagocytes and unmyelinated nerve fibres, whereas the shockwave therapy group nerve grafts had well-myelinated regeneration axons.

Six to eight weeks after the procedure, the shockwave therapy group exhibited a significantly improved functional recovery compared to control group. After 12 weeks, there was no significant difference, which indicates the shockwave therapy group recovered approximately six weeks faster, effectively cutting recovery time in half.

During the healing process, regenerating fibres must first reach their peripheral targets (skeletal muscles), reinnervate them, and then produce a functional reinnervation. The regenerating fibres in the shockwave therapy group achieved a measurable functional reinnervation much faster, hence the difference in recovery times.

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is therefore an effective, non-invasive solution for nerve regeneration. It can also be used to treat other conditions such as lateral epicondylitis, plantar fasciitis, and more.

Shockwave Canada is the exclusive distributor of industry leading Storz shockwave therapy machines. To learn more about how our technology can enhance your practice, call 1 (888) 741-SHOC(7462) or visit our website.