The effectiveness of extracorporeal shockwave therapy in common lower limb conditions: a systematic review including quantification of patient-rated pain reduction

Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):387-407. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097347. Epub 2017 Sep 27.


Objective: To evaluate extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) in treating Achilles tendinopathy (AT), greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS), medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), patellar tendinopathy (PT) and proximal hamstring tendinopathy (PHT).

Design: Systematic review.

Eligibility criteria: Randomised and non-randomised studies assessing ESWT in patients with AT, GTPS, MTSS, PT and PHT were included. Risk of bias and quality of studies were evaluated.

Results: Moderate-level evidence suggests (1) no difference between focused ESWT and placebo ESWT at short and mid-term in PT and (2) radial ESWT is superior to conservative treatment at short, mid and long term in PHT. Low-level evidence suggests that ESWT (1) is comparable to eccentric training, but superior to wait-and-see policy at 4 months in mid-portion AT; (2) is superior to eccentric training at 4 months in insertional AT; (3) less effective than corticosteroid injection at short term, but ESWT produced superior results at mid and long term in GTPS; (4) produced comparable results to control treatment at long term in GTPS; and (5) is superior to control conservative treatment at long term in PT. Regarding the rest of the results, there was only very low or no level of evidence. 13 studies showed high risk of bias largely due to methodology, blinding and reporting.

Conclusion: Low level of evidence suggests that ESWT may be effective for some lower limb conditions in all phases of the rehabilitation.

Keywords: Intervention effectiveness; Review; Shin Splints; Shockwave; Tendinopathy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / physiopathology
  • Conservative Treatment
  • Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy*
  • Femur / physiopathology
  • Hamstring Muscles / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome / therapy*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Patella / physiopathology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design
  • Tendinopathy / therapy*