Shockwave therapy has been getting a lot attention as a possible cure for erectile dysfunction (ED). But, does it really work? Can ED really be reversed by using sound waves? Is it better than Viagra? And equally important – is it safe? In this review, I'll cover research on the shockwave ED treatment. In addition, we'll also discuss the cost, side effects and how it works too. Is it right for you? Let's see what the research says.
What Is Shock Wave Therapy for ED?
Also known as low intensity extracorporeal shock wave therapy, this it's an in-office procedure where a physician uses a ultrasound device to apply low-level sound waves to shock to the penis. The hope is this these sound waves will regrow blood vessels and restore blood flow.
The therapy was discovered after researchers observed low intensity sound waves could improve blood flow to the hearts of lab animals. It was speculated this same treatment may have similar effects in penile tissue.
Reasons People Get Shockwave Therapy
There are several reasons why a doctor might prescribe low intensity sound wave therapy such as:
- break up kidney stones (lithotripsy)
- improve heart blood flow
- treating osteoarthritis
- improving wound healing
- helping plantar fasciitis
- treating erectile dysfunction
It's important to remember the shock waves used to treat ED are different than other procedures. For example, you wouldn't use a lithotripsy machine on the penis.
Shockwave ED Research
Since it was first used in 2010, various studies have been conducted on the use of low intensity shock waves to reverse ED.
Most research shows it works.
In the very first investigation, 20 middle aged men with ED (average age 56) all responded well to low intensity shock wave treatments. Some men responded so well in fact that 10 of them no longer needed drugs like Viagra. The benefits from the treatments persisted for at least 6 months.
Since then, many other studies have noted improvements in penile performance factors such as erections, hardness and ability to maintain erections. Instead of listing them all here, let's just cover the meta-analysis trials. These are studies of studies. These types of investigations look at a bunch of previous studies and see if a consensus or common thread can be reached. So far, there have been 3 such investigations.
Here's a rundown of the evidence:
In a review published in 2017, researchers looked at the results of 7 previous studies involving over 602 men whose average age was 60. When compared to men who underwent a sham therapy (placebo group), shock-wave therapy caused significantly improved penis erections.
In another review from that same year, doctors compiled the results of 14 previous studies involving 833 people. Their calculations noted sound wave shock therapy significantly improved hardness and penis function and that the results persisted longer than 3 months. As expected, men experiencing mild to moderate ED responded better than those with more severe cases.
While these reports are encouraging, another review published in 2018 of the data is less encouraging. In this review of past studies, researchers note that while shock wave therapy may benefit men with mild ED, there is “no consensus” on how well it worked. These investigators point to differences in how past studies were conducted which makes it difficult to tell how well it really works.
Bottom Line: Most individual studies and reviews indicate shockwave ED therapy helps at least some men with erectile dysfunction.
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How Does Shock Wave ED Therapy Work?
The mechanism of action goes like this:
- Low-intensity sound waves cause micro-traumas in the penis
- The body responds to this trauma by increasing inflammation in an attempt to heal the damage. This is a normal inflammation and eventually results in the formation of new new blood vessels growth. This process is called angiogenesis.
- The shock-waves also cause the body to produce a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which further improves blood vessel growth in the penis.
- Another way the therapy may work is by helping the body produce nitric oxide, a potent vasodilator.
In-Home Shock Wave ED Treatment Options?
Low intensity ultrasound ED treatment devices can also be found online at both:
While in-home options are sure to appeal to some men, remember devices sold online may not be the same as those used by physicians. The sound waves they produce may not be the same either. As such, their effectiveness is not known.
Shockwave Therapy Erectile Dysfunction FAQ
1. How much does it cost?
Expect the cost to be about $6,000 for 16 treatments. This price may vary -higher or lower – according to where you live.
2. How many treatments are needed?
The number of treatments will vary. Generally 1 treatment session won't work. As a rule, 6-12 treatments may be required. Some men may start to see results after 8 treatments but this can vary depending on their degree of ED.
3. Does it work for everybody?
More research is needed to know which men shockwave therapy works best for and who it might not work for.
4. What does a treatment session look like?
This procedure is performed in a doctors office. You can go in at lunchtime and still make it back to the office for the rest of the day. A treatment lasts about 10 minutes so you may be in the doctors office for a total of about 20 minutes at most. Some doctors may suggest you start with 1 treatment for the first week and then come back the next week for a round of 3-4 sessions.
After 3-4 sessions, you take a week or so off and return afterward for another round of 3-4 sessions. This continues until you have racked up about 12-16 treatments.
5. How soon until I notice a difference?
It varies. Nobody will be the same. Some men may start to notice differences after 8 treatments while in others, it may take longer. Factors such as age, the degree of ED, the cause of ED and the number of treatments need to be considered.
6. What should I do between treatments?
The man I know whose getting the treatment was told to masturbate during the off weeks. The reason is this also helps bring blood to the area and boost nitric oxide levels. This makes sense as does other types of activity – like walking, weight lifting etc.
7. Can I take Viagra while getting shockwave therapy?
Your doctor can best guide you on this. As a rule, there may be a synergistic effect if male enhancement drug are used but this may not always be the case. Since those medications can cause a drop in blood pressure, those with hypertension should speak their doctor first.
8. How does it increase nitric oxide levels?
It's thought the soundwaves produce micro-traumas in the blood vessels. The blood vessels respond to this trauma by ramping up their nitric oxide production.
9. Can nitric oxide supplements help the therapy work?
Just as with ED meds, speak to your doctor/pharmacist if you have any health issues like heart or blood pressure problems. While some nitric oxide supplements may be safe, others could contain stimulants which may carry a higher risk.
At a basic level most nitric oxide (NO) supplements contain these amino acids:
Purchasing these amino acids would be less costly. Other compounds whcih can raise NO levels include the spice, turmeric and green vegetables. There is even some evidence V8 Juice boosts nitric oxide levels
10. Does it require surgery?
No. This is an out-patient procedure and does not require any surgery.
11. How long does a therapy session last?
About 2o minutes total.
12. How long do the effects last?
Results will vary but some research shows benefits may last for several months.
13. Do the treatments hurt?
I've been told there is some stinging pain that, while not fun, it's not unbearable either.
14. Does it cure ED 100% of the time?
No therapy is 100% effective and this is true for shock wave therapy too. So far, improvements seem to occur in about 75% of the men. Success is expected to be best in men with mild to moderate ED.
15. Is it covered by insurance?
In most cases, this is probably not covered by insurance. Still, it can't hurt to ask.
16. Is It FDA approved?
Shock wave therapy has not been FDA approved as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. While the European Association for Urology has listed shock wave therapy as a potential treatment option for ED, other organization such the American Urological Association and International Consultation on Sexual Medicine do not include it as a recommended treatment.
Regardless of this, some urologists may offer this therapy. The best advice is to ask your doctor.
17. Will It benefit younger men?
If younger men get shock wave treatments, will it reduce the odds of ED occurring when they are older? This is unknown. Proving this would require a study lasting decades. So far this has not occurred. Until that happens, healthy men in their 20s should save their money on shockwave treatments.
Shock Wave Therapy Side Effects
While I've been told the therapy may be a little bit painful, no harmful side effects have been reported in clinical studies. Still, if you have any issues “downstairs” (Peyronie's disease, etc), talk to your doctor.
How To Find a ShockWave Physician?
A good place to start your search is by asking a urologist. Your personal physician will also likely have insights on where to find a qualified professional. Searching online for “shockwave ED treatment near me” may also provide various men's health clinics which offer this treatment.
GainsWave is a company which provides their own version of shock wave therapy. They have offices all over the US whcih you can find at their their website (GainsWave.com/directory). Their providers are mostly MDs but there are also NDs (doctors of naturopathy) and chiropractors. The company certifies their physicians so this may be an advantage.
If you're trying to decide how to choose a shockwave physician, questions to ask include:
- how long have you been doing the therapy?
- did you receive any training on how to do the therapy?
- how much training did you receive?
- what side effects have you seen with your patients?
- who should not get shockwave treatments?
- on average how many treatments do you suggest for someone my age?
- how much does it cost?
Shock Wave Testimony
While I have not personally tried this procedure, I know someone who is receiving this therapy now. After he's finished his treatments, I will update this section on what happens. Stay tuned.
ED Shock Treatment Pro/Con
Here's a quick rundown on the good and not so good about this therapy
|Several human studies show it works||Expensive|
|Few side effects||Not yet officially endorsed to treat ED|
|Treatments don’t take long||It may not work for everybody|
|In-office treatment||Several treatments may be needed|
|No hospitalization needed||Not all doctors may offer it|
|Results may last several months||Probably not covered by insurance|
Does Shock Wave Therapy Reverse ED?
Several clinical studies have noted significant improvements in erections with shock wave therapy. While encouraging, some doctors may prefer to wait for larger studies before recommending it to their patents. Even if shockwaves really work, remember, erectile dysfunction may be a sign of heart disease. Blockage of the blood vessels in the penis may reflect blood vessel problems elsewhere too.
Shock wave treatments won't reverse heart disease. Only eating better and exercise can help that condition.
I’ve purchased TENS units online, and you’re right. Some are junk. I’ve found a brand that works well for me, although not as good as the Empi I had through a prescription. Most things that are “as shown on TV” are junk, according to the few things I’ve bought.
But all these things are so tempting to buy when someone has issues. It’s expensive and time consuming to go to doctors all the time, so people try to buy something they think might help at home. It’s a Catch 22 situation.
Roseann, you are right. when people are in a pinch and looking for answers, they want answers quick -I have that trait too. I’ve been scammed a few times myself from products which promise the moon, but fall short of it.
We all want quick fixes. They don’t work. As you always say, our diets and exercise, what we eat and what we do, make the biggest differences. But it takes time and a lifetime of commitment. So I’ve fallen, too, for scam products that were expensive and useless. I hope I’ve learned by now to avoid those sites.
Roseann, I am sure you’ve learned it 🙂
This is very interesting. I had never heard of it before, but I will pass it on to someone who might need it.
The treatments are SO EXPENSIVE though. And since if it works at all, it works for months only. So a man would have to go through significant expenses again and again. What costs so much about it? The machines they use? The doctors’ fees?
You are correct that devices a person can buy online may be far different from devices doctors purchase for use. I bought an Ultrasound machine online for less than $40 (not for ED), and it doesn’t seem to work at all.
Roseann, I agree its expensive. As we know, that’s the rule in the medical world. about the treatment duration, I left it vague, saying months but I’m not sure how many months it may last (6 month or 60 months for example). I think this is something the research needs to pin down. I do know someone getting shockwave treatments. I’ll update with his results (anonymous of course) when hes completed it. Yes sometimes we have to watch out with medical devices purchased online. I know some who had good luck with TENS units, but there’s others who were not so lucky.