Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment option for erectile dysfunction (ED) that has been gaining traction in recent years. It involves the use of low-energy shockwaves to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and improve blood flow to the penis. This can help improve erectile function, reduce penile pain, and increase penile sensation. Studies have shown that shockwave therapy can be effective in improving erectile response, stiffness, and response to oral medications for ED.
The most prominent hypotheses behind shockwave therapy for the treatment of ED stem from its therapeutic uses to induce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels). Several clinical trials and studies have shown that penile shockwave therapy can improve erectile function. To date, there have been 11 randomized controlled studies investigating the effects of penile shockwave therapy on erectile function, with promising results. Shockwave therapy works by sending high-energy shockwaves to the penis, causing the body's natural healing process to begin to form blood vessels and capillaries.
When an ultrasound wave is in contact with specific cells, mechanical vibration of the shock wave in cells can induce cell proliferation. This increases blood flow to the penis, which can improve erectile function. Unlike medications or injections, which are the other common treatments for ED, shockwave therapy has few side effects. No cases of long-term physical harm have been reported and there is no evidence that it causes permanent sexual dysfunction.
It is important to distinguish shock wave therapy from radio wave therapy, which is commonly advertised as a non-invasive treatment for erectile dysfunction available in both medical and non-medical facilities. Shockwave therapy for Peyronie's disease is still being investigated, but several well-documented and published studies have achieved excellent results with therapy to improve penile pain. Current lines of research on new therapies for ED are based on the Rho-kinase pathway, as well as exploring the feasibility of gene therapy through intracorporeal injections of plasmids and regenerative stem cell therapy. All patients undergoing penile shockwave therapy should be aware that this therapy modality is not approved by the FDA and that the results, treatment protocols, and side effects are not fully understood. Although no shockwave therapy protocol has been published or standardized, it is often a general rule of thumb that pulses activate better blood flow and tissue remodeling in the penis. Both of these changes can lead to enough erections for sexual intercourse.