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Shock Wave Therapy Can Relieve Chronic Plantar Fasciitis

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Plantar fasciitis, also known as policeman´s heel, is a common condition that causes prolonged pain and discomfort along the sole of the foot and heel.

Anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and soft insoles are often recommended to relieve symptoms. For more severe cases, and often as a last resort before surgery, some specialists have tried extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), a non-invasive procedure that uses pressure waves to trigger healing. But does it work?

A study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery evaluates the effectiveness of this technique in relieving chronic heel pain diagnosed as plantar fasciitis.

A total of 246 plantar fasciitis patients at several healthcare facilities in the U.S. were randomly assigned to receive either placebo intervention or three ESWT sessions of 2,000 impulses at weekly intervals. They did not receive local anaesthesia or pain mediation during the procedure.

Results at 12-week follow-up consultations showed that there was a significant reduction in pain levels when patients took their first steps in the morning and during daily activities in the shock wave therapy group (69.2%) compared to the placebo group (34.5%).

There were no safety issues associated with ESWT, although some patients reported temporary pain and swelling during and after the treatment.

The researchers concluded that the study shows the clinical effectiveness of focused extracorporeal shock wave therapy in the treatment of chronic plantar fasciitis, with success rates of between 50% and 65%.

“The advantage of this relatively new treatment is that it is non-invasive and that patients can continue with activity throughout the treatment,” commented lead study author Dr. Hans Gollwitzer.