Shockwave Therapy

In my last real update, I mentioned my appointment at Spaulding and agreeing to start shockwave therapy on my hamstring injury. I was supposed to start that on January 4, but I needed one extra paycheck before forking over the $625 fee (insurance doesn’t cover this treatment). So after a whole month without any PT or doctor’s appointments, I finally gave my hamstring some attention.

My appointment was seemingly the first of the day, considering I beat the receptionist to the office and the doctor  had me change into shorts and then took me back a few minutes before my actual 7:30 appointment time. He re-explained the procedure and asked me to show him exactly where the pain was. I lied on my back with my left leg extended in the air. He said it would hurt, but that I shouldn’t be “jumping off the table in pain.” He was right. It was really intense and uncomfortable, but I found that breathing got me through it. He first used a ceramic head on the probe, which created more of a dull “shock” pain. He kept it moving but focused on the area behind my knee, where the pain has always been worst. Basically where there is damaged tissue, I will feel pain from the probe. Where the tissue is healthy, it just feels like one of the vibrating skin cleansers. I realized as he moved more to the outside of my leg where my calf meets my knee, the pain was absolutely the worst – 10 out of 10. He said that made sense, and focused the probe there for a few minutes.


Then I flipped onto my stomach with my legs on the table, and he used a metal head on the probe. This created a more shooting/stinging “shock” pain, but was no more or less uncomfortable than the ceramic head. That side part of my calf was so miserable. He said I might even bruise, and that is the only part that actually did.

When it was all done (about 15-20 minutes later), I was drenched. Covered in sweat. I had brought shorts, but was wearing a regular bra and blouse, and wish I had brought something to change into. The pain was so intense that I was sweating as if I had just left a hot yoga class.

The doctor asked me what activities or positions aggravate my hamstring the most. I told him sitting for a long time results in me limping for the first 20 or so steps after I stand up and walk around; sitting in bed or on the couch with my legs out in front of me – I actually need to put a pillow under my left knee so that it doesn’t entirely straighten; and being on all fours in my barre or yoga classes (AKA tabletop position) and then straightening my left leg behind me, which we do in almost every class! So he said, “OK, try to sit with your legs straightened in front of you.” So I did. “Any pain?” No, but it doesn’t always hurt right away. “OK, so try that tabletop position.” So I awkwardly did this on the table and almost fell over in awe. It doesn’t hurt! What the what?! He just smiled and said, “That’s great.”

He explained again that the shockwave therapy might take anywhere between 2 and 12 (or more) sessions, but that the immediate relief was a great sign. He said it might last an hour, a day, or a week. It could be permanent, but that wasn’t likely. So I’ll go back every week for another session until I don’t need to anymore, but I only had to pay the $625 once.

I couldn’t believe that after 18 months with this injury, and pain hovering around a 6-7 (on the scale of 0-10, with 10 being the worst) for the first 6 months and then also for the last 6 months (honestly, training for the marathon seemed to improve my hamstring injury while aggravating my arch/posterior tibial tendon injury), that my pain level was literally at a 0 on Wednesday. I told everyone I could. I enjoyed being able to get up from my desk and walking normally instead of limping. I sat in bed without a pillow propping my knee up. I knew it was temporary, but I couldn’t help feeling excited. I saw runners on my drive home, and while walking Chip, and felt envious of them for the first time since my running hiatus began 2 months ago.

When I woke up on Friday, the pain was back, but was only at about a 2. Now several days later, it’s back up to a 5 or so, but I notice less stiffness/pain when I first stand up. It’s there, but it doesn’t take my breath away.

The doctor suggested a PT check-in to make sure I have some at-home exercises I can be doing while I’m still following the no-impact orders. He said I could still do all my other workouts, including on Thursday night, but I realized I was signed up for a Kick It By Eliza class at the New Balance HQ. I haven’t been to one of those classes in a few months, so it didn’t even dawn on me that it was a cardiokickboxing class that is like 90% impact. So, not an option for me. I’m able to modify during my sculpt classes when we do burpees, mountain climbers, high knees, jumping jacks, etc., but I can’t modify 50 minutes of a 60-minute class. So I didn’t go, and instead went to PT on Friday morning and spin on Friday night – a two-a-days to make up for skipping Thursday!

At PT, Ben was very interested to hear about shockwave. He doesn’t have any other patients doing this therapy, but I sent him the research afterward and he agreed that it sounds like the best next step for someone like me who is doing everything right but still not finding relief. He re-assessed my ankle, glute, and hamstring strength and noted that everything remains unchanged from a month ago, except some increased strength in my glutes – clearly barre and spin are paying off! Now I just need this $625 shockwave treatment to pay off…


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