What’s that sound? It’s EPAT!

by Tim Waanders, PT, DPT, FAFS

If you’ve been at Finish Line PT recently, you may have heard the slightly loud, jackhammer-like sound coming from the far end of the clinic. This is our state-of-the-art EPAT machine, used to treat all kinds of ailments that may arise from running. Many patients ask what this machine is and why it’s used, so here’s a breakdown of everything you might want to know about it!

What is EPAT?

EPAT, which stands for Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology, is also known as “shockwave therapy.” Though the nickname might suggest it, you do not feel any electrical shocks; it actually feels like a slightly more intense version of a Theragun. Most patients refer to the sensation as “unpleasant, but tolerable,” so it is not a scary or painful therapy.  Now, if you’re wondering what “extracorporeal” means, it simply means that it occurs outside of the body, so it is a non-invasive procedure. It is an FDA-approved device that has little to no adverse effects, so it is a perfectly safe adjunct therapy to help complement your typical physical therapy program. The only situations where EPAT should be avoided include areas where there are any malignant tumors or the pelvic region in pregnant patients. 

What is EPAT used for?

EPAT can be used for most musculoskeletal injuries. Commonly, it is used to treat tendinopathy or other overuse injuries. Here at FLPT, we will often use it for Achilles, patellar tendon, hamstring, or quad/hip flexor injuries. Further, it was actually originally approved by the FDA in treating plantar fasciitis, which has the most research to support its effectiveness. Other indications for use include treating muscle strains and general muscle pain, stress fractures, delayed bone healing, and “shin splints” (aka medial tibial stress syndrome).  The typical protocol involves at least one session per week for a minimum of three weeks, and based on symptom severity and progression of symptom relief, more sessions may be added on.

How does EPAT work?

EPAT works similarly to therapeutic ultrasound, but has actually been shown to be more effective in many circumstances. Physiologically, the mechanical energy produced by both the soundwaves and pulsatile pressure coming from the EPAT machine help to improve tissue healing at the cellular level. It also has a pain relieving effect by stimulating the pathways of the nervous system that inhibit the pain response. A recent study from 2020 looked at how effective EPAT was specifically in treating running injuries, and found that close to 80% of patients had a significant reduction in symptoms and improvement in functional outcomes after just 4-5 sessions. 

If you’re interested in trying out EPAT to help relieve your musculoskeletal aches and pains, reach out to your physical therapist or our administrative team to set up an appointment!