Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/18/2021
When it comes to sexual performance, two of the most dreaded words any man wishes to experience are erectile dysfunction (ED).
However, with around 30 million men in the United States affected by it, ED is a very common condition, whose effects are, thankfully, very treatable.
If you’ve done any research on managing erectile dysfunction, you’re probably familiar with names like Viagra® and Cialis®.
However, gaining popularity as a potential treatment for this condition is a procedure marketed under the name GAINSWave®.
GAINSWave is a brand that employs low-intensity shock wave therapy to help with managing erectile dysfunction.
If the idea of transmitting shock waves around the penis sends shivers down your spine, then you’ll be happy to know that you have very little to worry about.
Low-intensity shock waves, otherwise known as low-intensity extracorporeal therapy, or low-intensity sound wave therapy, is a non-invasive treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Unlike other treatments for this condition, which usually aim to manage the effects of ED, shock therapy looks to restore erectile function so that you can achieve natural and impulsive erections with few adverse effects — and without other assistance like ED pills.
While treatments like GAINSWave have been approved for the treatment of conditions like plantar fasciitis — an inflammation of the tissue between the heel bone and toes — the FDA is yet to give the go-ahead for the use of this treatment in managing erectile dysfunction.
In addition to GAINSWave, other brands, like PhoenixPro®, also make use of shockwave therapy to restore erectile function.
The first thing to know about how GAINSWave and shockwave therapy work is that this treatment method consists of elastic waves, which carry energy that can be targeted at the intended body part.
By focusing low-intensity sound waves at a specified organ, these waves are, in theory, able to interact with deep tissues where stress and trauma are present.
This interaction then leads to a series of reactions that ultimately cause the formation of new blood cells.
This formation increases the supply of blood to the affected area of the body, encouraging an improvement in how it functions.
According to GAINSWave, their procedure helps to break up plaque buildup in blood vessels, while also stimulating the growth of new blood cells in the penis.
The low-intensity sound waves may also, in theory, able to stimulate new nerve cells in the penis, helping to encourage sensitivity.
These changes help improve penile functioning, and may be effective in offering a lasting solution to erectile dysfunction.
For noticeable results when managing erectile dysfunction, low-intensity shock wave therapy usually requires the application of these waves to the penile shaft at a specified setting, and for an agreed-to number of shocks per minute.
This usually happens over a period of time, during a stated number of sessions.
It should be noted that everyone is different, and there is no generally accepted number of treatments or sessions for patients.
Using the GAINSWave procedure, about six to 12 sessions (usually lasting around 15 to 20 minutes) are required for a chance at satisfactory results.
But before beginning these sessions, a certified GAINSWave provider will conduct a pre-screening. Following the pre-screening, they’ll recommend a treatment plan.
Your provider may require you to show up around 30 minutes early to your first session to help facilitate the application of numbing cream.
After that, the procedure generally takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.
For subsequent sessions, your provider may permit you to apply the numbing cream at home, as well as resume normal daily activities following treatment.
Each of these sessions may typically cost around $500 each, give or take.
Low-intensity extracorporeal therapy is typically reserved for people who do not experience satisfactory results after using PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra and Cialis.
In particular, those that weren’t pleased with their outcomes and suffer from organic causes of ED are ideal candidates for this treatment.
And just for thoroughness’ sake, organic causes of ED include:
Damage to blood vessels
Problems of the nervous system
Endocrine disorders like diabetes
Another cause may be Peyronie’s disease, which is a condition that leads fibrous tissue to form in the penis causing painful, curved erections.
If you tick any of these boxes, you may find this procedure beneficial for managing your erectile dysfunction.
Shockwave therapy is getting recognition as a viable treatment method for ED, especially for those men who experience a poor response to other, more conventional treatment methods.
But just how well does this treatment help with improving erectile function?
In a study that hoped to answer this, 40 men with vascular erectile dysfunction were treated with shockwave therapy once a week for four weeks, while 36 others were given a fake treatment to serve as a control.
After around three to six months of treatment, participants that received authentic shockwave therapy reported a modest improvement in erectile function when compared with those in the control group.
Another study on 20 patients who had been dealing with ED for over two years, also looked to examine the effects of shock wave therapy.
Participants went through 20-minute shock treatments which went on for 12 sessions.
By the end of the study, about 80 percent of patients had reported improvements in their erections.
Another study on 31 participants with moderate to severe ED tested the safety of the procedure over four weeks.
Upon completion, a three-month follow up found that participants reported significant improvements to their erectile function following the treatment.
However, while low-intensity shockwave therapy appears to be safe and effective, more studies are necessary to determine its long-term and short-term efficacy on patients.
While low-intensity shock therapy is a relatively safe procedure, there are cases where this treatment can lead to adverse reactions.
Some of the side effects of low-intensity shock therapy may include:
Penile skin bruising
Infection of the penile skin
Pooling of blood under the skin
Difficulty having sex following pain or an infection
If you aren’t certain that the GAINSWave procedure is a choice you’d like to try out for your ED, there are alternate and trusted methods you can use to manage your conditions.
They include PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra, Cialis, Levitra® and Stendra®.
Learn more about the different ed medications and management options for erectile dysfunction in our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments and drugs.