Most of us would find the Star Trek style of medicine appealing. The doctor waves a tricorder over you and it immediately tells you exactly what’s wrong. No more injections of medication are needed: simply use the hypospray to apply medication right through your clothing. Blind people can see with special visors, and surgery is a thing of the barbaric past. Medicine hasn’t advanced to quite that level yet, but there are many new treatments that don’t involve poking you with a needle or making incisions with a scalpel. One often used for tendon pain is called extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT).
Extracorporeal means something that is located outside the body. There are no anesthetics, no injections, and no incisions. The device simply uses sound waves, targeted directly to your painful tissue. It is most often used to treat chronic, severe pain which hasn’t responded to other conservative treatments. The concept behind shockwave therapy is that sound or pressure waves stimulate your normal healing process, repairing tissue as well as altering your nerves to reduce their sensitivity to pain.
When ESWT Is an Option
ESWT is often used for heel pain from a condition called plantar fasciitis. This injury is caused by overuse or trauma to the plantar fascia, a band of tissue under your foot that runs between your toes and your heel bone (calcaneus). This tissue helps form your arch, and it is under a lot of stress when you run, jump, or stand on your feet for long periods of time. The stress can cause the tissue to stretch or tear, and you end up with inflammation and pain in your heel, especially first thing in the morning or after sitting for a while.
Plantar fascia can usually be relieved by a combination of rest, icing, pain medication, taping, splinting, heel cushions, shoe inserts, or physical therapy. Many times a custom orthotic or shoe modification can take care of the problem. We will have you try several of these conservative treatments over a period of months. If they do not successfully take care of your pain, we may recommend shockwave therapy as an alternative to a more invasive, surgical procedure.
A treatment usually lasts less than 30 minutes, and is FDA approved. The device functions like ultrasound to locate the damaged tissue, and then targets pressure waves directly to the affected area. You may feel a slight discomfort at the treatment site for a few days, and there may be a little swelling, redness, or bruising. As healing takes place and your cells regenerate, your heel pain should dissipate.
When ESWT Is Not an Option
This therapy has fewer risks and side effects than surgery. It also has a shorter recovery time, and an enviable success rate. However, certain people are not good candidates for sound or pressure wave treatments. They include children, pregnant women, those who use pacemakers, and those who are on anticoagulants such as warfarin. In addition, if the injury is acute, it may be too late for ESWT to be of benefit to you.
The expert podiatrists at Aadvanced Foot Care Associates can advise whether shockwave therapy is right for you. Give our NY office in Rego Park a call at (718) 896-4433, or dial our Plainview location at (516) 822-9595 or Flushing at (718) 969-2266. We want to help make your painful heels a thing of the past. Call us today!