Reviewed by the medical professionals of the ISSM’s Communication Committee
Shockwave therapy uses energy from acoustic waves to trigger a process called neovascularization in certain parts of the body. When neovascularization occurs, new blood vessels form. This helps improve blood flow to the region.
This type of therapy has been used to help heart patients, people with kidney stones, and those with fractures and joint inflammation. Recently, scientists have investigated low-intensity shockwave therapy to help men with erectile dysfunction (ED).
Blood flow is critical to a man’s erections. When a man is sexually stimulated, arteries widen so that his penis can fill with blood. The blood is what gives the penis the firmness needed for vaginal penetration. A man who has problems with blood flow to the penis may have weaker erections or may be unable to have erections at all.
There are several types of treatments available to men with ED, including pills, vacuum erection devices, and penile injections. However, these therapies are typically conducted on an as-needed basis and may work for only one sexual encounter at a time. Shockwave therapy is different, as it targets the erectile mechanism so that men are more likely to have erections on their own.
To administer shockwave therapy, a clinician applies a probe to the penis, which is coated in a special gel. Different areas of the penis are usually targeted. Treatment sessions may last for fifteen to twenty minutes. Men usually don’t need anesthesia or experience pain, although they might have a tingling sensation in the treated area.
Clinical trials of shockwave therapy for ED have had encouraging results. The process has been well tolerated by patients. Many men have found that their erections have improved and they are able to have intercourse. Men with more severe ED may still need to take ED medication in addition to having shockwave therapy.
However, shockwave therapy is still considered an experimental treatment. Scientists need to conduct further research to confirm current findings. They also need to learn more about how the therapy works with different types of ED and develop treatment protocols. Such protocols can guide practitioners on the number of treatments needed and the best areas of the penis to target.