New Treatment For Heel Pain
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy, or ESWT, is a non-surgical treatment option for the intense, persistent heel pain associated with chronic plantar fasciitis. Extracorporeal means outside the body. Shockwaves, also known as pressure or sound waves, are generated by a special ESWT device, and focused onto the targeted tissue. The shockwaves are delivered to stimulate and reactivate the body’s repair mechanism to advance normal tissue healing. ESWT is an appropriate treatment option for approximately 5-10% of people suffering from plantar fasciitis; most others are successfully treated with traditional conservative therapies.
Am I a Candidate For ESWT?
You and your podiatrist will decide if ESWT treatment is right for you after looking at all the options. You could be a candidate if you have been diagnosed with chronic plantar fasciitis for at least six months and if your symptoms have failed to respond to three conservative treatments which may include rest, physical therapy, heel cushions, nonsteroidal medications (Motrin or other anti-inflammatories), cortisone injections, taping, orthotics, shoe modifications, night splint and casting. In the past, surgical intervention for chronic plantar fasciitis was required when these other treatments had failed, but today, ESWT is available as an alternative, non-invasive treatment option.
What Happens During Treatment?
After registering, you will recline in a comfortable chair or bed, with your affected foot resting on a large, fluid-filled cushion. Either an ankle block utilizing local anesthetics is administered to create a numb feeling throughout the foot or, if your physician chooses, IV sedation may be used to administer a light sleep until the procedure is complete. After localizing the inflamed area, the affected heel receives several thousand shockwaves during the approximately 20 minute outpatient procedure.
The recovery time is very short, and after a recuperative period, usually 24-48 hours, you should be able to return to normal daily activities. You may begin to feel relief immediately, or it could take from three to six months to improve.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Compared to invasive or endoscopic surgery, ESWT has fewer side effects and a much shorter recovery time. The most common side effects include temporary pain (bruising and soreness), swelling and petechiae (broken blood vessels that are generally of no concern). These possible occurrences, however, usually clear within a few days. Moreover, the risks associated with surgical incisions and general anesthesia are eliminated.