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How is Shockwave Therapy used to treat Plantar Fasciitis?

Over the past 20-years Shockwave Therapy has become the alternative treatment to invasive surgery for patients suffering from plantar fasciitis (heel pain). What’s more, one of the worrying side effects of surgical treatment are potentially serious complications, such as continued pain, wound problems, and infections. Few complications have been reported with the use of shock wave therapy.


What is the Plantar Fascia?


The plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue structure extending over the underside of the foot and its function is to help support the foot arch. The attachment at the heel is to the medial calcaneus (heel bone) and extending forward to the heads of the metatarsal bones. The Plantar fascia supports about 14% of the total load in each foot and is heavily involved with complex biomechanical process that occur to allow normal gait to occur.


What is Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain?


Plantar fasciitis is the abnormal inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue on the under-side of the foot. The main causes of mechanical plantar fasciitis are related to poor control of the foot during weight bearing. Plantar fasciitis may also occur in the high arched foot and results from the inability to dissipate force. It is often referred to by the old-fashioned description of ‘policeman’s heel’, based on the activity of policemen walking too much on ‘the beat’.



What Happens Before Shockwave Treatment?


Before we can begin to treat you with shockwave therapy for Plantar Fasciitis we will need to ask you about your history of heel pain (or read the notes of your physician), examine the area so that we can understand the clinical history behind your condition. This is so that we can ensure that the ailment being treated is actually a plantar fasciitis and heel pain and is therefore treatable with shockwave therapy.


What Happens During Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis?


We will isolate the area that needs to be treated, then using our focussed shockwave equipment we will start sending gentle impulses to the area. Discomfort will be kept to a minimum and gradually the impulses will become more intense, although little pain will be felt and if it is it will gradually dissipate over a few days.



How Long Will the Shockwave Therapy Take to Work?


Generally, shockwave for plantar fasciitis and heel pain will resolve after three to four sessions, depending on your condition and how long you may have suffered with it, while early diagnosis can reduce the number of sessions needed. It is important that you work with your physical therapist to ensure that you have an exercise regime and massage to ensure full recovery. After your subsequent treatments you should notice a definite improvement in symptoms leading to reduction in the original pain felt.


How Does Shockwave Therapy Work to Relieve Plantar Fasciitis?


Shock wave therapy works by inducing micro-trauma to the tissue that is affected in the heel and the foot. This micro-trauma initiates a healing response by the body, resulting in blood vessel formation, increased delivery of nutrients and stimulating a repair process that thus relieves the symptoms of pain.


What Scientific Proof is There for Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis?


A 2012 study, compared shockwave therapy to surgery and demonstrated that the outcomes for return to sport and continuation of sport whilst undergoing treatment were in favour of shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis.  Athletes were able to have shockwave therapy and maintain playing their chosen sport. Whilst athletes choosing surgery had to stop playing sport. (Saxena – 2012). Another study demonstrated the morphological changes associated with shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis. Most studies also show that on its own, shockwave therapy can significantly reduce pain and suffering associated with plantar fasciitis. (Vahdatpour – 2012)


What Are the Alternatives to Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis?


One of the most attractive aspects of shock wave treatment is that it is a non-invasive for problems that are sometimes challenging to treat. This is sometimes described, medically, as being treated extracorporeally, i.e. outside of the body. Furthermore, since it is non-invasive, there is no lengthy recovery period, little or no time off from work, or risk of causing further damage and infections.


The same cannot be said with surgery, it is not uncommon for postoperative plantar fasciitis patients who have surgery to miss work for two to six weeks due to immobilisation. Plus of course, if they are private patients the cost of surgery can run into several hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.


If you would like to discuss how shockwave therapy can be used to treat your plantar fasciitis heel pain then please contact Sarah or Karen in our Southampton clinic on 02380 476191.

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