Podiatrists have been using the non-invasive technique of applying Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) to areas of the foot to alleviate pain. The technology uses waves to disrupt pain pathways formed by the nerves of damaged tissue and encourages new tissue creation by the body in a simple procedure that is performed in under half an hour. Patients tend to experience immediate relief and there is no recovery period. The risks and costs associated with surgery are eliminated, making it a much safer, and preferred, method of treatment for elderly patients. For patients who have given up hope of achieving any relief from pain, ESWT has been life-changing.
ESWT has been very successful in treating chronic plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and heel spurs. When other treatments have been tried, such as cortisone injections or physical therapy, and have not worked well for the patient, ESWT might be recommended. The best time to perform the procedure is before the condition advances to a rupture, at which point the only remaining option is surgery. Your physician will examine you and let you know whether or not the procedure is right for you so you won’t have to guess.
A local anesthetic is applied prior to the treatment. The patient will hear a clicking noise during the procedure. Ultrasound may be used to guide the physician to the precise spot to be treated before applying the ESWT shock wave treatment. The FDA recommends high energy ESWT for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. Low energy ESWT will only affect pain receptors and can only be applied without local anesthetic as the anesthetic will interfere. The level can only reach the patient’s level of tolerance so additional treatments may be required to reach the desired outcome.
Some patients will experience tingling, numbness, redness or bruising initially following treatment. These symptoms are temporary and will disappear on their own.
Following treatment, the body will regenerate cells in the affected area. Although many patients experience immediate relief, the body takes time to repair the damaged tissue; healing can take up to one year.