How Does Shockwave Therapy Help With Plantar Fasciitis?

by Jessica Ferdowsian | Nov 6, 2023 | Treatments

Shockwave therapy, or extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), has been used to treat various musculoskeletal conditions, including plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain, often resulting from inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. A leading treatment of plantar fasciitis is shockwave therapy, which applies sound waves to the affected area to promote tissue healing. In addition to rest, custom orthotics, and stretching, studies have shown that shockwave therapy is an effective course of treatment for plantar fasciitis.

Benefits of Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis

Before discussing how shockwave therapy helps with plantar fasciitis, it’s important to know how it works to treat the affected area. The ESWT machine from CuraMedix is a compressed air ballistic pulse wave generator, which generates pulse waves via the precision ballistic system in the wand. When the waves force the projectile to strike against the pulse transmitter (the part of the device that touches the patient’s skin), it creates kinetic energy, which then turns into sound energy.

This sound energy, made up of sound waves, induces microtrauma in the tissue. This microtrauma stimulates a series of biological responses, leading to the release of certain growth factors that promote healing and the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis). Either a gel or acoustic impedance adapter is placed between the device and the patient’s skin during the treatment to act as a medium through which sound waves can travel to reach a patient’s skin.

Shockwave Therapy Improves Blood Flow and Reduces Pain

Shockwave therapy affects many areas of the body all at once. Primarily, the creation of microtraumas incites the body to respond by creating new blood vessels that promote the healing of an injury. Moreover, the process of neovascularization — as the formation of new blood vessels is known — improves the delivery of oxygen-rich blood that helps repair damaged tissue. In addition, shockwaves can stimulate the production of collagen to repair damaged fascia; disrupt pain mediators and, increase the release of certain substances that have analgesic (pain-reducing) effects, stimulate nerve fibers to reduce pain perception.

When you sustain an injury, the scar tissue that forms limits muscle movement, which is why you might feel tightness when attempting to move the affected area. This is typically followed by pain, as you’re attempting to stretch a muscle that is rigid. Scar tissue can take a long time to heal properly, but shockwave therapy can help break down this tissue, improving elasticity and mobility.

It’s worth noting that while many people experience relief from plantar fasciitis pain after shockwave therapy, the results can vary. Some individuals may need multiple treatments before they notice a significant improvement.

How Many Shockwave Therapy Sessions Are Needed to Fix Plantar Fasciitis?

Typically, for plantar fasciitis, patients usually undergo between three to five sessions, although this can vary. If you’re only exhibiting mild symptoms, you may only need a few sessions, whereas those with more severe cases can expect to undergo additional treatment. That’s because the effects of shockwave therapy vary by person. Some patients may notice a gradual improvement with each session, while others might only perceive the benefits after completing the full course of treatment. In any case, sessions are generally spaced about a week apart. This allows the body time to respond to the treatment and initiate the healing process.

Since the number of shockwave therapy sessions is based on the severity of the patient’s plantar fasciitis condition, only a doctor can definitively prescribe the number of treatments necessary. The effectiveness of the treatment is typically assessed after the completion of the recommended sessions. A doctor may increase the number of treatments, as well as the intensity if the course of treatment fails to achieve the expected results.

There are different forms of shockwave therapy, such as focused shockwave therapy (FSWT) and radial shockwave therapy (RSWT). The type, intensity, and frequency can impact the number of sessions required. While shockwave therapy is not inherently painful at lower intensities, higher-intensity therapies require the use of a local anesthetic or sedative.

Note: The shockwave therapy machines used at Governor’s Park Chiropractic do not need local anesthesia.

Often, shockwave therapy is just one part of a comprehensive treatment approach. Physical therapy, orthotics, stretching exercises, anti-inflammatory medications, or other interventions might also be recommended in conjunction with shockwave therapy.

Can Shockwave Therapy Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse?

In some cases, shockwave therapy can lead to a temporary increase in symptoms or complications, which may make it seem like the plantar fasciitis has worsened.

Some individuals may experience an increase in pain immediately after the treatment. This can be due to the inflammatory response induced by the shockwaves, which is intended to promote healing. This heightened pain usually subsides within a few days. The therapy can also lead to localized swelling, bruising, or redness in the treated area. Some patients report transient numbness or tingling in the treated area.

Shockwave Therapy — The Answer To Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis affects roughly two million people in the U.S., yet many cases go undiagnosed or untreated. Though not life-threatening, this condition can cause major discomfort when standing or walking for long periods of time. Treatments such as stretching or wearing custom orthotics can manage the discomfort and treat the root cause of the issue, but they can take months. Shockwave therapy, on the other hand, works much faster. This therapy can treat plantar fasciitis in as little as three to five 30-minute sessions.

Governor’s Park Chiropractic shockwave therapy treatments are ideal for Denver-area patients with plantar fasciitis. You only have to attend one short therapy session per week. You also don’t have to worry about asking someone to drive you home, as we do not use local anesthesia or sedatives for the treatment. If you’re ready to take the first step toward a plantar fasciitis-free life, book your appointment today.

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