Focused Shockwave Therapy vs. Radial Wave Therapy

By: Zachary Lott

Shockwave Therapy 

A shockwave can be defined as an acoustic disturbance - think of a sonic boom - that both carries energy and transfers that energy through a medium, like air or tissue. There are two primary commercial devices for wave therapy currently marketed to men, Focused Shockwave Therapy and Radial Wave Therapy, sometimes called pressure wave therapy or acoustic wave therapy. This post is meant to describe both treatment devices, the similarities, as well as the biggest differences between the two. If you're a consumer looking for this sort of therapy, this might be the most important information for you. 

References for Shockwave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction 

Therapeutic Advances in Urology 

Nature - International Journal of Impotence Research 

Sexual Medicine Reviews 

Biomedicines 

Similarities 

Both the Focused Shockwave Therapy devices and Radial Wave Therapy devices emit a sound wave, but the speed of that soundwave dictates whether it is a shockwave or an 'acoustic wave.' The two types of devices differ in how the wave is generated, the depth of tissue penetration, the focus of energy, the shape of the pressure wave, and the effect on the target tissue. 

Both Focused Shockwave Therapy devices and Radial Pressure Wave Therapy devices cause the following:  

  • Increase in the permeability of the cell walls of the treated tissues; 
  • Stimulation of both blood and lymphatic microcirculation; 
  • Release a neurotransmitter called substance P which may play a role in vasodilation and pain modulation; and, 
  • Causes immediate dilation of the blood vessels. 

Focused Shockwave Therapy Characteristics 

Focused Shockwave Therapy is the 'Gold Standard' for the treatment of erectile dysfunction and Peyronie's disease, and there is only 1 FDA-approved device on the market in the United States, the Storz DUOLITH® SD1. The newest models are privately labeled in the United States by Chattanooga as the Intelect® F-SW™, which holds the same FDA approval. The following are the benefits and unique effects of Focused Shockwave Therapy:  

  • Focused Shockwave Therapy devices emit a supersonic shockwave that travels at 1,350-1,500 meters/second and is a true shockwave; 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy is the only therapy used in all of the seminal scientific research studies for the safety and efficacy of shockwave therapy for erectile dysfunction; 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy causes the release of growth factors, mainly vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), that can cause neoangiogenesis or the growth of new blood vessels; 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy may cause an improvement in nerve regeneration through the release of nNOS-positive nerve fibers and activation of Schwann cell proliferation; 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy causes an immediate increase in the average arterial pressure of the treated tissue resulting in increased blood flow; 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy is painless; 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy is quiet (it sounds like a BBQ lighter); 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy devices are costly for medical providers; 
  • Focused Shockwave Therapy devices are Class III FDA Devices meaning they are capable of causing harm and must be operated by a trained professional. 

Radial Pressure Wave Therapy Characteristics 

Radial Wave Therapy Devices are the most commonly used and marketed for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, although the scientific research is insufficient to show that Radial Wave Therapy is effective for erectile dysfunction. They are more popular for use given their lower cost and FDA classification (Class I), which is the same as an over-the-counter electric toothbrush.  

  • Radial Pressure Wave Therapy devices emit a pressure wave that travels at 10 meters/second and is not a true shockwave; 
  • Radial Pressure Wave Therapy devices have not been shown in rigorous scientific research studies to be effective for erectile dysfunction; 
  • Radial Pressure Wave Therapy devices have not been shown to cause the release of growth factors; 
  • Radial Pressure Wave Therapy devices are painful and require a topical numbing cream prior to treatment, the treatment is still painful for many men, despite the numbing cream; 
  • Radial Pressure Wave Therapy devices are loud; 
  • Radial Pressure Wave Therapy devices are Class I FDA devices and can be operated by non-licensed personnel, often trained as 'technicians.' 

Conclusion 

Focused Shockwave Therapy has been demonstrated in scientific research to be the standard for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. In all of the large medical research studies (RCT or meta-analyses or RCTs), the only devices used were Focused Shockwave Therapy, such as the Storz DUOLITH® SD1, privately labeled by Chattanooga as the Intelect® F-SW™. 

What to Ask a Prospective Provider 

If you've come this far in your research, you may be well aware of the differences between Focused Shockwave Therapy and Radial Wave Therapy; but, some clinic's staff aren't always aware of the differences and it may be difficult to tell when making a call to their office. There are some helpful questions that you can ask a prospective provider if it's not clear when you call:  

  • Is the treatment uncomfortable? 
  • Should I apply a numbing cream prior to treatment? 
  • Is the treatment loud? 

If the answer is yes, then you may not be getting Focused Shockwave Therapy which makes it difficult to justify the cost that many clinics are required to charge for licensing certain marketing terms for the treatment. 

Nexus HealthSpan offers Nexus Shockwave Therapy and utilizes the Storz DUOLITH® SD1, privately labeled by Chattanooga as the Intelect® F-SW™. Nexus HealthSpan charges a competitive fee for treatments and provides further discounts for packages of treatments; in our experience, most men require more treatments than would be traditionally assumed, depending on the erectile dysfunction cause in your case. Reach out to us to day and see if we can help determine what would be the best approach for you.

*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.