Comparative effectiveness of focused shock wave therapy of different intensity levels and radial shock wave therapy for treating plantar fasciitis: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jul;93(7):1259-68. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.02.023. Epub 2012 Mar 12.


Objectives: To compare the effectiveness of focused shock wave (FSW) therapy of different intensity levels and a new alternative, radial shock wave (RSW) for managing plantar fasciitis.

Data sources: Electronic databases including MEDLINE and PubMed were searched from January 1996 to June 2011.

Study selection: Randomized controlled trials comparing shock wave and placebo therapy were included. Two reviewers independently scrutinized eligible articles, and disagreement was resolved by discussion. Literature searching identified 93 nonduplicate citations, of which 12 trials comprising 1431 participants were included.

Data extraction: Information, such as patient characteristics, shock wave intensity, and outcome measures, was extracted by 1 reviewer and checked by another. Both reviewers assessed the trials' quality by using the Jadad scale.

Data synthesis: FSW therapy of different intensity ranges was treated as 3 subgroups, whereas studies using RSW therapy were regarded as a separate group. The success rates of treatment and pain reduction magnitudes were used as the outcomes. The traditional meta-analysis showed that medium and high-intensity FSW therapy had reliably higher success rates and pain reduction than the placebo, while the effectiveness of low-intensity FSW therapy and RSW therapy appeared less convincing because of very large confidence intervals. After employing network meta-analysis, the probability of being the best therapy was the highest in RSW therapy, followed by low-, medium-, or high-intensity FSW therapy. The meta-regression indicated that the success rate of FSW therapy was not related to its intensity, whereas elevated energy efflux densities tended to relieve pain more.

Conclusions: Setting the highest and mostly tolerable energy output within medium intensity ranges is the ideal option when applying FSW therapy on plantar fasciitis. RSW therapy is considered an appropriate alternative because of its lower price and probably better effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Fasciitis, Plantar / diagnosis*
  • Fasciitis, Plantar / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Taiwan
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / methods*