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An Overview of Treating Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis: Why ESWT is Extraordinary

If you suffer from heel pain or plantar fasciitis, you’re not alone. Heel pain is one of the most common ailments among adults. Thankfully, there is a solution that has been proven to be effective in treating this condition: extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). Read on to discover the wonders of ESWT and how it can help treat your heel pain and plantar fasciitis. 

What is plantar fasciitis?

plantar fasciitis anatomy
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The bottoms of your feet hold continuous strands of tough connective tissue, known as the plantar fascia. These bands interconnect your toe bones to the heel ones and when they become inflamed you are suffering from plantar fasciitis – an endless condition that causes foot pain around the heel region. The soreness may vary in strength but is usually intensified if you remain still for a long time; thus explaining why it can seem unbearable right after getting out of bed every morning.

Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • High arches
  • Flat feet
  • Obesity
  • Wearing inadequate shoes that provide little to no arch support
  • Running or walking on hard surfaces
  • Tight Achilles tendons

For those suffering from plantar fasciitis, stretching exercises and custom orthotic shoe inserts may prove beneficial. However, there is no guarantee that these methods will work for everyone – which is why extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) can be an even more exciting and effective treatment option! Additionally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and customized shoe modifications are also viable treatments to consider.

Related article about heel pain.

What is ESWT?

ESWT uses pressurized air technology to create small breaks in the swollen plantar fascia tissue. These minor traumas produce new blood vessels that deliver nutrients and promote healing, resulting in significant pain relief.

Fear not, because the treatment is quick and painless. The technician will simply place a probe on your skin to help with conducting the shockwaves—and you might even hear some clicking sounds due to the low-energy therapy! Rest assured that you’ll be given local anesthesia so that no discomfort comes your way; before you know it, this non-invasive procedure will be finished in less than 20 minutes.

For optimal results, it is essential to refrain from strenuous physical activity for a period of one or two weeks post-therapy.

Related: No More Living with Heel Pain: ESWT, Reliable Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Pain

How It Works

For treating various ailments, there is both high-energy and low-energy form of shock wave therapy. Both are equally effective in providing the desired results.

Repeated low-energy shock wave treatments are administered in a series of three or more. During these sessions, patients may experience either no pain at all or only mild discomfort.

In comparison, high-energy shock wave treatments are given in a single session. These procedures can be agonizingly painful and usually necessitate some type of anesthesia; whether that may be general or regional block anesthetic is up to the patient’s discretion.

Shock wave therapy is purported to work by inciting microtrauma in the tissue that has been damaged due to abnormalities. This microtrauma stimulates a recovery process within the body, initiating restoration and healing.

Our body naturally responds to injury with a healing response that triggers the production of new blood vessels and delivers nourishment to the area. This microtrauma is thought to bolster repair processes and reduce pain significantly.

Is ESWT effective?

Research has demonstrated that ESWT, compared to corticosteroid shots and physical therapy, is highly successful with a success rate of 65-91%. Moreover, it is less time-consuming than physical therapy and eliminates the risk of surgery or post-surgical complications. Additionally, results tend to linger longer than those achieved through steroid injections.

Is shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis painful?

Shockwave therapy, though it can lead to minor pressure or discomfort for some patients, is generally not painful. Each session typically lasts only 10-20 minutes and most individuals are able to tolerate the treatment without difficulty. However, if you feel any degree of pain during your shockwave therapy sessions, be sure to communicate this with your sports podiatrist promptly as they have the capacity to reduce intensity levels and increase them gradually over time so that you may become more tolerant of the treatments.

Related: Prevent Further Injury: When to Consider Using ESWT for Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Pain Treatment in 2023

Is extracorporeal shockwave therapy a safe treatment?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has thoroughly evaluated extracorporeal shockwave therapy to be a safe procedure. The NICE guidelines which discuss the use of this treatment for Achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis are strictly adhered to by our team, ensuring patients receive the best possible care.

Subsequent to the procedure, you may experience a temporary period of redness or swelling in and around the area. Fortunately, these side effects are brief and will subside within one week’s time. To minimize any discomfort that may arise, taking over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol is recommended; however, it is vital to refrain from using anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen and ice packs during your treatment regimen as this could interfere with the healing process.

What happens after extracorporeal shockwave therapy?

Following your treatment session, you can go right back to living life as usual. You are free to wear normal shoes and resume daily activities; however, we recommend you abstain from strenuous exercise or running for 48 hours after treatment for optimal results.

How many sessions will I need?

Recent studies suggest that the duration of your injury can be an indicator of how many treatments are necessary. If you’ve had pain in the range between 6 weeks and 3 months, it is likely that only 3 treatment sessions will suffice. Those suffering from chronic pain for over 6 months might require up to six or more sessions for optimal results.

Conclusion

In conclusion, extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for those suffering from chronic pain due to plantar fasciitis. Though the number of treatments required may vary based on the duration of your injury, research has demonstrated its success rate to be between 65-91%. This highly successful procedure requires minimal time and eliminates the risks that may arise through surgery or corticosteroid injections. It is advised to communicate any discomfort experienced during treatments with your sports podiatrist promptly in order to ensure optimal results.

Overall, ESWT is an excellent treatment for plantar fasciitis and can be a great alternative to more invasive routes of pain management.

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