A common predicament in both men and women is heel pain. Around one in ten people will have at least one episode of heel pain in their lifetime. This article discusses heel pain, its management, and the use of ESWT in plantar fasciitis.
The common home treatments for heel pain include resting the affected foot as much as possible or at least for seven days. In the first couple of days, applying ice to the painful area can help decrease inflammation. This should be done two to three times a day for 15 minutes at a time. To relieve pain and minimize swelling, over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken.
To protect the heels, shoe inserts or heel pads can be used. It is also important to wear proper-fitting shoes. If the pain does not get better in a couple of week after home treatments, see your podiatrist for a proper evaluation.
The podiatrist can recommend physical therapy. If any underlying foot abnormality is noted, orthotic devices can be prescribed to correct this. Cortisone injections are also sometimes given. Recently, extracorporal shock wave therapy, ESWT for heel pain has been an option in patients who do not get relief from conventional treatments.
The most common reason for heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This is heel pain felt at the first step in the morning that progresses as the day goes on. Pain is also aggravated when standing for extended periods of time. Sometimes, the pain becomes so severe that it feels like a stab in the heel of the foot. It can involve only one foot or can affect both feet at the same time. There are times when pain becomes so severe that it causes the patient to limp or unable to walk.
In the management of plantar fasciitis, the goals are to decrease inflammation and provide pain relief. The patient should ultimately be able to return to normal activities and not be debilitated by the condition.
There are several treatment options for plantar fasciitis. This includes the standard modalities such as icing, resting, and stretching exercises. Other alternatives are night splints, arch supports, custom orthotics, physical therapy, cortisone injections, shockwave therapy, and surgery.
Shockwave therapy is becoming one of the modern medical interventions for heel pain. Contrary to popular belief, a shockwave therapy is not the same as electric shock therapy.
The treatment is called ESWT or Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy, currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis. It can be passed for use in other conditions such as achilles tendinitis and shoulder tendinitis in the future.
It makes use of high-pressure sound waves that travel through the skin to target tendinopathies. In plantar fasciitis, for instance, the high vibrations cause slight injuries to the structures at the heel. As a result, these shockwaves increase the repairing properties in the heel area leading to improved healing response.
Shockwave therapy is suitable for people with long term heel pain that have not responded to conventional treatments modalities. The good thing about ESWT is that it is a relatively painless procedure, it is low risk, with almost no downtime to the patient.