Recently, studies have reported that extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is a safe, noninvasive, alternative treatment for spasticity. However, the effect of ESWT on spasticity cannot be determined, because most studies to date have enrolled small patient numbers and have lacked placebo-controlled groups and/or long-term follow-up. In addition, whether varying the number of ESWT sessions would affect the duration of the therapeutic effect has not been investigated in a single study. Hence, we performed a prospective, randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled study to investigate the long-term effect of radial ESWT (rESWT) in patients with poststroke spasticity and surveyed the outcome of functional activity.
Sixty patients were randomized into 3 groups. Group A patients received 1 session of rESWT per week for 3 consecutive weeks; group B patients received a single session of rESWT; group C patients received one session of sham rESWT per week for 3 consecutive weeks. The primary outcome was Modified Ashworth Scale of hand and wrist, whereas the secondary outcomes were Fugl-Meyer Assessment of hand function and wrist control. Evaluations were performed before the first rESWT treatment and immediately 1, 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks after the last session of rESWT.
Compared to the control group, the significant reduction in spasticity of hand and wrist lasted at least 16 and 8 weeks in group A and B, respectively. Three sessions of rESWT had a longer-lasting effect than one session. Furthermore, the reduction in spasticity after 3 sessions of rESWT may be beneficial for hand function and wrist control and the effect was maintained for 16 and 12 weeks, respectively.
rESWT may be valuable in decreasing spasticity of the hand and wrist with accompanying enhancement of wrist control and hand function in chronic stroke patients.