health

"Like being shot:" I tried electro-shock therapy to deal with chronic pain.

Ok, here it is – the simple, unbeautified facts, right to the bottom of it. Recently, for about two months, I literally had a pain in the bum. There is no nice way of saying it – my hindquarters were in pain. 

It hurt to sit down, it hurt to stand up, it hurt to bend over, it hurt to get in and out of the car. Pretty much every movement hurt the lowest part of my back and, yep, my buttocks. I had no idea why it was happening or how to make it stop.

After an ‘unremarkable’ X-ray, I tried chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncture, heat packs, my mum’s hidden stash of Panadeine Forte, all to limited or only temporary success. So I decided to go to a physio. 

After a quick assessment and a prompt treatment of the area the physio finally pinpointed the actual source of the pain and what was actually wrong: my bottom muscles were inflamed and the tendon that connects them to my hip was stretched, more than ones’ buttocks tendon should be.

As well as specific stretches and exercises to assist the issue, because strengthening it is the only way to overcome the problem, she suggested something else… and it totally freaked me out.

“I’d like to try shock therapy,” she told me.

Immediately thoughts of electrodes being connected to my head came to mind, which obviously translated to my facial expression because she proceeded to add more detail about the treatment, explaining its official name is Radial Shockwave Therapy (RPW) and that it was for my bottom.

If I decided to go ahead, radial shocks were going to be fired into my body – in my case into my gluteus maximus.

The primary purpose of RPW, she explained, is pain relief to aid rehabilitation. It basically allows a person enough pain-reduced time to do what is needed to do to try and get on top of the issue.

“Think about it,” she told me and handed be a flyer about the treatment.

At home, I looked through the flyer. It said: 

“Radial shockwaves are introduced into the body by means of a freely moved applicator and cover the entire pain region. The pathological association between pain and muscle tone and vascular tone is broken as a result of shock wave therapy and the strong stimuli it produces, thus enabling natural movement patterns to be remembered and recalled.”

So essentially this phallic-shaped applicator (see photo below) would shoot shock waves into the painful area of my arse, shocking it into submission.

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The device. Image: Supplied

Although this description didn’t sound like my idea of a good time, I decided that it was worth a shock… I mean shot.

A week later I was back, ready. Well sort of ready.

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Ready! Image: Supplied
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After a brief consultation the physio whipped open her drawers and handed me a super sexy pair of shorts to put on while she went to collect the shockwave machine. 

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Said shorts. V attractive. Image: supplied.

As she wheeled it into the room I thought to myself, this doesn’t look too bad. 

But this was foolish. Very foolish.

I laid down on the treatment table, buttocks exposed, and ultrasound gel was placed on my left cheek - like I was about to have a pregnancy ultrasound in entirely the wrong spot. The machine was switched on.

“It will be uncomfortable," My physio said. "It should be like that. But if you can’t cope with the level of pain just let me know. Are you ready?”

“Well I don’t know now,” I joked. “But sure.”

And that is when the four minutes of pain began. Individual shocks that sounded like fire crackers going off one after another over my left bum cheek. Some of it was tolerable, some of the shocks caused intense pain to radiate down my leg. 

My initial response was a very loud, “holy shit!” This then turned into intense teeth gritting to internalise the pain I had voluntarily agreed to be inflicted upon my body. 

“Can I turn it up?” She asked about half way through.

I looked at her assuming she was joking. She was not.

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“Sure,” I responded, half crying. 

Up the dial went to 3.6, where it stayed for the next two minutes. Two minutes where the pain transported my mind to another place far, far away.

Then just as it began, it was all over. I pulled up my pants and stood up. The pain on my left side had disappeared. There was nothing there. 

“Wow,” I said.

The shock wave therapy rid the area of pain so much so that I could actually bend over without any discomfort. It also allowed me to start working on the strengthening exercises to get to the source of the problem. 

All that I was left with post-treatment was the memory of the four minutes of agony I had endured and some red spots where the treatment was given.

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All that I was left with was the memory of the four minutes of agony... and some red spots." Image: Supplied

So with one treatment done and one left to go in two weeks’ time, I should have kicked this problem right in the bum!

Shona Hendley, mother of goats, cats and humans, is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education as well as being an animal lover and advocate. You can follow her on Instagram.

Would you try Radial Shockwave Therapy? Let us know in the comments.

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