Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) developed from studying the side effects from lithotripsy, a procedure that disintegrates kidney and urethral stones, as well as other calculus from outside the body (extracorporeal). It was discovered that patients receiving this treatment experienced reduced back pain as well as increased bone density and new tissue growth in the treated area.
ESWT was then applied in the orthopedic arena to treat conditions such as tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis/heel spurs, non-union and stress fractures. It has been used successfully for over 25 years for these indications first on people, then horses and small animals.
The first ESWT devices were very large and were basically downgraded lithotripters. They were extremely loud and painful and thus required anesthesia to administer the treatment. As the technology advances, the devices continue to become smaller, more compact, quieter and less painful and today they are extremely portable and user and patient friendly.