Heel pain, the most common sports injury we treat, can affect the bottom or the back of the heel. If the pain happens at the bottom of your heel bone, it is known as plantar fasciitis. Pain at the back of your heel bone is known as Achilles tendonitis.
Heel pain is a progressive problem, and it has many causes. Heel pain is generally the result of faulty biomechanics that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it.
Anatomy: The soft tissue that connects your heel bone to the ball of your foot is called the plantar fascia, which forms the arch of your foot. It is like a rubber-band. At rest, the muscle contracts. When a person with plantar fasciitis stands, the plantar fascia is overstretched and becomes inflammed, causing heel pain at its insertion on the heel bone. As we age, we also loose elasticity in our muscles, so over-stretching is more common.
Anatomy: The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body. An overstretching of the Achilles tendon leads to pain and swelling at the insertion of the tendon on the back of the heel bone.
There are two different philosophical approaches when treating heel pain. There is a traditional pathway that uses anti-inflammatory medications and modalities to treat heel pain. There is another holistic pathway that uses shockwave to eliminate pain and repair the damaged tissue.
The traditional pathway involves using anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and physical therapy to reduce inflammation and pain. Patients who chose this pathway can expect 1-3 cortisone injections within a month and twice weekly physical therapy for 4-8 weeks. They must restrict their activity level in order to allow the pain and inflammation to subside. Patients with Achilles tendon pain cannot receive cortisone injections because they weaken the attachment of the tendon onto the heel bone, and can cause the Achilles tendon rupture. In addition to physical therapy and oral medication, their heels need to be lifted to reduce the pull on the tendon.
The holistic pathway works faster than the traditional pathway, and it is designed for Athletes because patients resume activities much more rapidly. Hollistic treatment involves using the shockwave therapy. Unlike the traditional treatments, shockwave uses “good” inflammation to increase the body’s ability to heal itself, and actually can help repair damaged tissue without surgery. Shockwave therapy provides pain relief because it numbs the injured area as it is being administered. It also stimulates the production of endorphins which promote healing. Because shockwave is non-invasive, there are no side effects associated with the treatment. Half the people who undergo a single Shockwave therapy achieve 90-100% pain relief. The other half of the patients require multiple therapies to complete their treatment. Shockwave patients cannot use any anti-inflammatory treatment including cortisone injections and oral medications such as Aleve or Advil, as they diminish the effectiveness of the shockwave therapy.
Regardless of which pathway a patient chooses to treat their heel pain, custom orthotics are required to support and stabilize the arch during walking, and correct the underlying biomechanical imbalance that caused the heel pain. Achilles tendonitis patients have heel lifts incorporated into their orthotics to lessen the pull of the tendon at its insertion into the heel bone.
Pain has a way of making normal activities unpleasant. No one enjoys hobbling around on feet that ache every time you stand or walk. Many conditions worsen the longer they last, too, and even become more challenging to treat as they worsen. This creates a vicious cycle of pain. Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself to miserably uncomfortable feet, or even jump straight to surgery for your pain management. Cutting-edge holistic pathways like shockwave therapy provide noninvasive alternatives that offer real relief.
Noninvasive Energy to Heal Hurting Feet
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy, also known as extracorporeal pulse activation treatment (EPAT), is a nonsurgical, noninvasive method of relieving both acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is an intense, sharp discomfort, and often begins suddenly. The affected tissues are inflamed and damaged. Unresolved acute pain issues can eventually become chronic—which makes it much harder to manage. Chronic pain is discomfort that persists for an extended period of time. Traditional treatments are often less effective on chronic conditions, allowing the problem to continue to worsen.
EPAT uses controlled, targeted pulses of acoustic energy delivered to the painful area to stimulate the body to increase natural healing efforts, helping you feel better faster. The energy waves stimulate the damaged soft tissues, convincing the body that it needs more nutrients and healing factors around the targeted spot. Circulation in that area increases, bringing those much-needed nutrients and repair cells to the damaged tissues and speeding up the overall recovery. The procedure also over-stimulates the nerves sending pain signals, temporarily shutting them down and providing you with immediate relief.
What to Expect During Your Shockwave Treatment
At Country Foot Care, our skilled doctors will evaluate you lower limb condition and determine if EPAT would truly improve your pain management. Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis are among the most common conditions that benefit from shockwave therapy. We’ll examine your feet and ankles, and consider what other treatments have been used. If this noninvasive method is a beneficial option for you, we’ll begin the treatment.
When you come into the office for the therapy, our team will prepare your foot, then use the EPAT machine to deliver the targeted shockwaves to the spot in your foot that needs it most. The whole procedure is relatively quick, requiring no incision or anesthesia and resulting in no scarring. Many people are able to return to their activities right away, though some experience a degree of soreness afterwards. You will be provided with after-care instructions for dealing with any soreness, including taking a temporary break from hard-impact activities. Many people notice a significant improvement after a single treatment, though some may need follow-up treatments as well.
The therapy works well for both acute and chronic issues like plantar fasciitis, stubborn Achilles tendinitis, and shin splints. If you’re struggling with long-term issues that are simply not recovering on their own, shockwave therapy may be your best option for long-lasting pain management. Contact us now for more information or to make an appointment to deal with your discomfort. Appointments can be made online using the MAKE AN APPOINTMENT button at the top of this page or by contacting our offices by phone.