Focused shockwave therapy to improve erectile function has been around for at least a decade, but it has only become more widely known and available in the last few years. Most men that I talk to have never heard of it, although articles about it have appeared in mainstream publications like Men’s Health. One of the main reasons for this is that drugs like Viagra and Cialis, which are certainly useful in many instances, are manufactured and marketed by big pharmaceutical companies who make millions of dollars from their sales. In contrast, focused shockwave therapy is a treatment provided in a doctor’s office and doesn’t have huge marketing dollars behind it. However, focused shockwave therapy does have a number of advantages over medications. Here is what you need to know about focused shockwave therapy in order to decide if it’s right for you.
What is Focused Shockwave Therapy?
Shockwaves are a form of energy that has been used for decades to break up kidney stones in the body. This treatment is called “lithotripsy,” and the shockwave therapy now used on the penis is also a form of lithotripsy. The shockwave machine I use at The Prime Clinic generates energy in the form of pressure waves, although they are often referred to as sound waves, acoustic waves, or sonic waves. For patients who had received shockwave energy to break up their kidney stones, doctors noticed that the tissue that the energy reached healed more quickly than expected. When they looked at the tissue under the microscope, they found it had developed new and more numerous blood vessels than before treatment. As a result of this discovery, shockwave therapy was adapted for uses in other parts of the body where improved blood flow might be beneficial. It is now very commonly used in orthopedics and sports medicine to treat muscle and joint injuries and in cardiology to improve blood flow to the heart. This same energy is now being used at lower, controlled levels on the penis to improve blood flow and ultimately, maximize erectile function.
How Does Focused Shockwave Therapy Work?
Like many things in medicine, the exact mechanism that produces the effect of shockwave therapy is still being studied. The current accepted theory is that shockwave energy applied to the penis causes a “micro-trauma” to the tissue. As a result of this mild trauma, the body’s own natural healing process is induced, which recruits chemical growth factors and stem cells to the treated area. These factors, in turn, cause the growth of new blood vessels and nerves. The growth of these new blood vessels is called “angiogenesis.”
The happy result of the process is improved erectile function and penile sensitivity! For any of you interested in a more scientific explanation, here is an excellent video that goes into much more detail.
What is the Shockwave Therapy Treatment Like?
A course of focused shockwave therapy consists of six, 15-minute sessions in my office given twice a week for three weeks. The treatments are non-invasive and painless. An ultrasound gel is applied to the penis and a handpiece is used to deliver shockwave energy along both sides of the penile shaft and to the perineum (the “taint” for those of you who aren’t doctors).
There is no soreness or bruising after the treatment and normal activities can be resumed immediately. One of the best things about shockwave therapy, besides its beneficial effects, is the fact that there are no side effects or risks involved. Results from therapy are generally first noticed after several treatments and are reported to last up to a year. Repeat treatments can be used if needed to further prolong the effects. My personal experience with two courses of shockwave treatment was that it was quick and painless and I noticed some effect by the 4th or 5th treatment, which continued to improve through the end of the first course and through a second course several months later.
It is important to note that men with severe erectile dysfunction may not see good results from shockwave therapy. It appears to be more effective for guys with mild to moderate ED. It has also not been thoroughly studied in men who have ED after treatment for prostate cancer.
Is Focused Shockwave Therapy FDA approved?
Focused shockwave therapy has been approved to improve erectile function in Europe and in Canada but the US FDA has not yet approved it for this indication pending further studies. The shockwave machine I use at The Prime Clinic is FDA approved for other indications, so its use here is considered “off-label” when used by a licensed physician. Because it is not yet FDA approved, health insurance plans do not cover the cost of shockwave therapy.
What Does Focused Shockwave Therapy Cost?
The cost for shockwave therapy varies widely around the country but the average cost is $3,000 for a 6 treatment course. Unfortunately, health insurance does not yet cover this treatment. The cost for a course of shockwave therapy at The Prime Clinic is highly competitive with other clinics in Austin and financing options are available.
If you have questions about focused shockwave therapy and whether it is the right ED treatment for you, schedule a free consultation here.