Heel pain is deeply uncomfortable, and it can be tricky to treat. One common cause of heel pain—especially first thing in the morning—plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a common condition, so most practitioners treat patients for this type of chronic heel pain. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available and very effective treatments. Shockwave therapy is particularly effective for patients with plantar fasciitis. Explore more about plantar fasciitis, shockwave therapy as a treatment, and how to begin offering this treatment in your practice.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the fan-shaped tissue at the base of your foot called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that connects your heel to your toes in an effort to maintain the foot’s arch. The plantar fascia is designed to absorb stress to the foot, but if it’s exposed to too much stress or becomes strained, it can become inflamed and painful. If the pain in the plantar fascia continues over time, it’s considered chronic.
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain. The pain is typically described as sharp and stabbing. Pain from plantar fasciitis usually occurs first thing in the morning when you take your first steps of the day or after any period of extended rest. Most practitioners can identify patients with plantar fasciitis by the time of day their pain occurs. Plantar fasciitis pain can also occur after extended standing, exercise, or strain on the plantar fascia. When plantar fasciitis isn’t treated, it’s more likely to become chronic and lead to chronic pain. In addition, untreated plantar fasciitis can eventually lead to a weakened plantar fascia, which can affect activity levels.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Who is at risk for plantar fasciitis? While plantar fasciitis can develop for no discernable reason, there are some common contributing factors:
- Being between the ages of 40 and 60
- Being overweight or obese
- Frequent high-impact exercise (like overuse from running)
- Working on your feet all day
- Wearing unsupportive shoes regularly
- Having a naturally high arch in your foot
- Having a naturally flat foot
- Having an abnormal gait
None of these individual risk factors guarantees developing plantar fasciitis, but if a patient reports heel pain and experiences some of these risk factors, plantar fasciitis makes sense. Unfortunately, if plantar fasciitis develops due to high-impact exercise or being on your feet for work, the pain is likely also to occur after those activities. That’s why it’s important to find patients with plantar fasciitis a treatment that effectively treats their pain.
How Do You Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
There are many treatments available for plantar fasciitis. One of the most simple and common treatments is simply icing the feet. Icing can reduce the pain, but it’s not a long-term solution for most. Another treatment is stretching the area daily. While that can be effective for some, for others it’s not a far-reaching or thorough enough treatment. When those treatments don’t work, many practitioners create custom shoe orthotics that reduce pain while the patient is wearing shoes. This treatment doesn’t help with pain in the morning, though, and it doesn’t treat the root cause of plantar fasciitis.
Unfortunately, too many practitioners jump straight to surgery when these other treatments fail. Surgery can be an effective way to solve the root problem of plantar fasciitis, but it’s also highly invasive and can come with other risks. Sometimes surgery doesn’t work and causes the patient increased pain as well. Surgery can also potentially weaken the arch of the foot.
So what other options do patients have? Shockwave therapy is a newer treatment option for patients with plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy is a noninvasive treatment that provides relief for symptoms and is a long-term solution because it works to solve the root of the problem.
Does Shockwave Therapy Work for Plantar Fasciitis?
To understand if shockwave therapy can be an effective treatment, it’s important to understand what shockwave therapy does for plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy comes in both low-energy and high-energy forms, and both can reach the same ultimate goal. Low-energy therapy typically requires three or more treatments to reach relief.
Shockwave therapy works by using a special device that emits shock waves into the foot. The waves reach the plantar fascia and trigger the body’s natural healing response. As part of this healing response, new blood vessels form, and the plantar fascia gets increased blood flow and oxygen. The increased blood flow helps reduce inflammation and helps the body regenerate tissue.
One of the reasons plantar fasciitis can develop is because of the lack of blood flow in that region of the foot. So when inflammation does develop in the connective tissue of feet, it’s hard for it to heal on its own without adequate oxygen and blood flow. Shockwave therapy uses special waves to trigger that natural healing response and to increase the blood flow in that area. That’s how shockwave therapy works to treat the principal cause, which is inflammation, to reduce symptoms overall and long term.
After only 3–4 visits, these special shockwaves can have enough of an effect to help the plantar fascia heal and reduce the pain and symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy is an FDA approved treatment method that can be an answer for patients who want long-term relief without the risk of surgery.
What Can I Expect?
For patients who are eager to try shockwave therapy, what can they expect from this treatment? Most patients will need to find a provider that offers shockwave therapy. Once they’ve made their appointment, they’ll visit the practitioner’s office. The patient will remove their shoes and typically lie down. Fortunately, shockwave therapy doesn’t require any medication, anesthesia, or other prep.
The practitioner will use a shockwave device near the patient’s affected foot or feet and release the shockwaves into the patient’s feet. Shockwave therapy is relatively painless, so the patient should maintain a level of comfortability throughout the treatment . The procedure is quick, so the patient can quickly return to their day afterward. Most likely, the patient will need a few visits to fully help the inflammation and reduce symptoms.
Many people aren’t familiar with shockwave therapy as a way to treat plantar fasciitis, so most patients have questions about how it works and some of the details. We’ve provided some commonly asked questions and answers to provide guidance on using shockwave therapy.
How long does shockwave therapy take to work for plantar fasciitis?
For some people, relief is instantaneous after one treatment. Many patients report a relief from pain or a numbing sensation immediately following their procedure. For some, it takes 2–4 hours to begin feeling some relief. The initial treatment often only reduces pain instead of eliminating it. Many patients find it takes several weeks and more than one treatment to fully reduce their pain. In general, it can take as long as 8–12 weeks to experience the best results of extracorporeal shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis.
The final results after the last treatment can lead to freedom from chronic pain and increased mobility. Shockwave therapy is a long-term treatment option, so it’s designed to provide long lasting relief and to help solve the problem itself, not just treat symptoms. With shockwave therapy treatment, patients can experience relief regardless of the time of day, the shoes they’re wearing, wherever they work, and without medication or surgery.
Can you walk after shockwave therapy?
After shockwave therapy, a patient can walk out of the office. Shockwave therapy provides relief and treatment without side effects or complications, which means patients can walk immediately following treatment.
Where can I find shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis?
Shockwave therapy isn’t available everywhere, and not every practitioner will offer it to patients. So for patients looking to find shockwave therapy treatment for their plantar fasciitis, we have a tool for you to find a provider easily who can offer you the treatment you’re seeking.
How SoftWave Can Help
Shockwave therapy is a safe, non-invasive treatment option that can provide long lasting relief to patients suffering from plantar fasciitis. For patients looking for treatment options, finding a provider with shockwave therapy as an option is important.
SoftWave is a leading provider of shockwave therapy technology that can help providers offer this valuable treatment to their patients. SoftWave’s technology can help provide long lasting relief to patients. Providers with this cutting edge technology can help give that to patients with plantar fasciitis.
Are you a medical provider seeking to help patients with plantar fasciitis? Learn more about becoming a provider to see what SoftWave’s technology can do for your practice.