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Equipment Selection Guides

What is the Difference Between Electromagnetic Shockwaves and Compressor-Based Shockwaves?

27 Jun 2024

Shockwave therapy has revolutionized the field of physiotherapy, offering effective treatment options for chronic pain, tendon injuries, and other musculoskeletal conditions. When investing in shockwave technology, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two primary types: electromagnetic and compressor-based shockwaves. Both aim to deliver mechanical impacts to achieve therapeutic outcomes, but the mechanisms behind these technologies can significantly influence patient experience, equipment longevity, and, ultimately, your clinic's bottom line.

The Core Mechanism: How the Shot is Generated

Electromagnetic Shockwaves represent the latest advancement in shockwave technology. In these systems, the shockwave is generated directly within the handpiece. This compact and efficient design contrasts sharply with Compressor-Based Shockwaves, which rely on an external air compressor housed within the machine’s casing. The compressor sends pressurized air through a cord to the handpiece, where the shockwave is finally produced.

This distinction in design is not just a technical detail—it affects various practical aspects of using the equipment.

Portability and Convenience

One of the significant advantages of electromagnetic shockwaves is their portability. Because the entire shockwave generation mechanism is contained within the handpiece, these devices are typically smaller and lighter than their compressor-based counterparts. This makes electromagnetic shockwave machines ideal for mobile clinics or physiotherapists who travel between locations.

In contrast, compressor-based systems are bulkier due to the need for an external compressor. This makes them less convenient for mobile use and can restrict the flexibility of your practice.

Longevity and Maintenance

Longevity and ease of maintenance are critical considerations for any clinic investing in shockwave technology. Compressor-based shockwave machines depend on a leak-free system to maintain air pressure. Any leakage along the cord or within the handpiece can lead to a loss of compression, resulting in shots that do not meet the required intensity. The complexity of these systems means there are more components that can wear out or fail over time.

Electromagnetic shockwaves, on the other hand, have fewer moving parts and generate the shot directly in the handpiece. This results in lower maintenance requirements and a more robust system. It's not uncommon to see electromagnetic handpieces lasting between 5 to 8 million shots before needing a rebuild—a stark contrast to compressor-based systems, which typically require handpiece rebuilding every 2 million shots.

And when it’s time for maintenance, HealthMed offers same day, in house handpiece rebuilds, minimizing downtime and keeping operations running smoothly.

Noise Levels and Patient Comfort

Patient comfort is paramount in any therapeutic setting. Many patients are sensitive to noise, which can affect their experience and willingness to undergo treatment. Compressor-based shockwave machines generate noise both from the handpiece and the compressor unit. This can be distracting and uncomfortable for patients, particularly those with sensitivities to loud sounds.

Electromagnetic shockwaves are inherently quieter because they eliminate the need for an external compressor. The reduced noise level can significantly enhance the patient experience, making treatments more pleasant and less intimidating.

Measurement Units: Understanding Bar vs. mJ

When comparing the two types of shockwave systems, you’ll encounter different units of measurement for their output:

  • Compressor-based shockwaves are measured in bars.
  • Electromagnetic shockwaves are measured in millijoules (mJ).

Think of this difference like measuring distance in inches versus centimeters. They quantify the same concept—the intensity of the shockwave—the units are just different. One isn’t better than the other; they simply reflect different units of measure

Investment and Profitability

For any clinic, the choice between electromagnetic and compressor-based shockwave systems should consider both initial investment and long-term profitability. Electromagnetic systems, with their compact design, ease of transport, reduced maintenance, and lower noise levels, offer significant advantages that can translate into cost savings and increased patient satisfaction over time.

Since electromagnetic shockwaves use the newest technology, they have created a way to be both lower cost and have lower operating costs than the older technology of compressor based shockwaves, giving you the best of both worlds! 


Understanding the differences between electromagnetic and compressor-based shockwaves is essential for making an informed investment in your practice. Electromagnetic shockwaves offer a modern, efficient solution with benefits in portability, maintenance, noise reduction, and patient comfort. These advantages can lead to better patient outcomes, more flexible practice options, and greater long-term profitability for your clinic.

As you evaluate your options, consider how each system aligns with your clinic’s needs and goals. Whether you're expanding your current services or starting a new mobile practice, the right shockwave technology can make a significant difference in the quality of care you provide and the success of your business.


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