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What is ESWT and Why is it a Solution for Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain?

How would you feel if, instead of the luxurious respite that comes with a good night’s sleep, you are suddenly awoken by a sharp pain in your heel? This is what it feels like to suffer from Plantar fasciitis: an experience no one should have to endure. It might seem like something out of a nightmare!

Typically the most intense pain is experienced with those first couple of steps after you rise, yet it can also be activated by extended amounts of standing or when transitioning from a seated to a standing position.

If you have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis or heel pain, extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) may be an ideal treatment to lessen your discomfort. ESWT has grown in popularity as a solution for chronic pains in the foot and ankle area. In this post, we will discuss what ESWT is and explore how it works so that you can determine if it’s right for managing your symptoms.

What is ESWT? 

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is a non-surgical intervention used to treat chronic musculoskeletal pain. It works by delivering acoustic pulses of energy to the affected area in order to stimulate healing and reduce inflammation. This type of therapy has been used for decades in physical therapy settings, but it has gained popularity in recent years due to its effectiveness in treating conditions such as plantar fasciitis and heel pain. 

Due to their innovative design, the FDA has granted approval for extracorporeal shockwave therapy machines as a treatment method for plantar fasciitis.

For those looking to avoid surgical intervention and steroid injections, this type of therapy provides an ideal solution when conducted by a certified therapist. It offers patients the opportunity to manage their symptoms without taking drastic measures.

Related article about ESWT.

How Does It Work?  

Shockwave therapy can stimulate the body’s natural healing process, allowing for faster recovery of damaged joints and tissue with reduced pain.

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is an outpatient procedure that works by either emitting focused shockwaves or radial pressure waves. To achieve the desired results, this treatment may require multiple sessions over time to target your condition directly.

With the focused shockwave method, there is no need for anesthesia as an extracorporeal shockwave therapy machine is used to deliver low-energy impulses. To begin treatment, you’ll lay down with your ailing area visible and have a special gel applied directly to it – this helps the waves penetrate more deeply into your skin. With its highly targeted approach, you can now experience relief without any major discomfort!

When administering ESTW therapy, the shockwave gun is applied to the troubled area and rapid impulses are sent through. Generally, treatment lasts between 5-15 minutes without causing any pain; however, some people may experience a bit of discomfort.

To ensure a successful recovery, patients must do their utmost to limit physical activity for the next fourteen days after treatment.

While the delivery of radial shockwaves is similar to that of focused shockwaves, there is a noticeable distinction between them; namely, that one dissipates and does not reach deep tissue (radial), while the other maintains its energy level regardless of skin contact (focused). Radial ESWT treatments are fairly new on the medical scene, yet focused ones have been around for years now and can deliver higher levels of energy into deeper layers.

Related: 9 Best Home Remedies for Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Machine

To kick off the ESWT revolution, electro-hydraulic devices were released into the market. After that came piezo-electric devices and multiple electromagnetic machines which all had a common goal — releasing focused pressure pulses to injured joints and tissue for recovery purposes. With their own distinctions in focus zones and sound fields, each of these varieties generates shockwaves with varying energy levels and concentrations – yet it is still effective in helping promote healing.

Why Would I Consider ESWT for Heel Pain? 

If you’re experiencing chronic heel pain from plantar fasciitis or another condition such as Achilles tendonitis or bursitis, then ESWT could be beneficial for you. This type of treatment is minimally invasive with few side effects, making it an attractive option for those who want an alternative to surgery or more aggressive treatments like corticosteroid injections. Additionally, studies have shown that ESWT can be effective at reducing pain levels associated with plantar fasciitis after just one session! 

Related: 9 Remarkable Plantar Fasciitis Treatment That Requires No Surgery

What are the risks/side effects?

Although you may experience a degree of discomfort during the treatment, it should be manageable. Following the procedure, possible side effects such as redness, bruising, swelling, and numbness in the area can occur but will likely dissipate within seven days prior to your next appointment. While uncommonly so, there is a slight risk for tendon or ligament rupture as well as harm to delicate tissue.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has determined that this method is secure, although some doubts remain about its efficacy. In order to better understand the success rate of this procedure, every patient will be closely monitored before and after their treatments. Research indicates there is a strong possibility that it will work effectively between 50-70%.

You must not have ESWT if:

  • You are pregnant
  • You are taking anti-platelets (eg aspirin of over 75mg or clopidogrel) anticoagulants (such as warfarin or rivaroxaban)
  • You have a blood clotting disorder
  • You are under the age of 18
  • You have been diagnosed with bone cancer
  • You have a cardiac pacemaker or other cardiac devices
  • You have an infection in your foot or a history of tendon or ligament rupture
  • You have had any steroid injections in the previous 12 weeks


In conclusion, Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat various conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinopathy. With the potential for quick relief from chronic pain and few side effects, ESWT has become increasingly popular among those seeking alternative treatments for their ailments. Although this form of therapy is generally considered safe, it is important to consult your doctor before attempting it as there are certain conditions and age restrictions that may prevent you from being a suitable candidate. With proper care and guidance, ESWT may be an effective treatment option for those suffering from chronic pain.

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