Shockwave Therapy: “Shocking” New Solution for Heel Pain
Did we get your attention? Sorry for the clickbait-y post title.
We promise we’re not trying to be sensationalist, although we did cheat a bit with the word choice. The technology we’ll be focusing on today doesn’t involve any shocking; it actually uses shockwaves. And while that word often has a destructive connotation, controlled shockwaves actually have incredible healing potential for the human body.
Confused? That’s okay. We’ll explain.
The Promise of Shockwave Therapy
Imagine yourself living with chronic, daily aches and pains that never seem to go away. (If you’re reading this blog post, of course, there’s a good chance you don’t have to imagine at all—you’re already living it.) You’ve tried all the basic options, like rest, ice, stretching, and activity adjustments, but they just don’t seem to help.
In this situation, you might be faced with some unappealing choices. For many people, the reality is simply suffering through the pain, and maybe taking a lot of painkillers or getting regular cortisone injections to cope.
The alternative to putting up with this intolerable situation? Once upon a time, we might have told you surgery.
But that was the way things used to be. Now, there are a variety of more sophisticated options to deal with chronic pain—including shockwave therapy!
Shockwave therapy is completely non-invasive. You don’t have to take any drugs or medications, not even anesthesia. Therapy sessions last only a few minutes, and just a handful of treatment sessions spaced out over a few weeks or months can bring lasting healing to the site of a chronic injury.
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t! In fact, in an FDA study of patients who were asked to rate their pain on a 1-10 scale, shockwave therapy took them from an average of 7.7 before the treatment course to an average of 0.6 after it! And for most people, the pain stays away.
So How Does It Actually Work?
The short answer is that shockwave therapy triggers a controlled, natural inflammatory reaction in your tissues, which in turn activates a number of natural healing mechanisms that repair the damage.
We’re used to thinking of inflammation as a bad thing, but under normal circumstances it’s an important part of how your body makes repairs and even defends itself. Inflammation is designed to trigger the release of antibodies and healing proteins, boost circulation in a localized area, and ensure your body gets a steady supply of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to heal.
But when inflammation becomes chronic, repair mechanisms slow and even cease, unable to complete the repair work. The inflammatory response can even start to actively damage healthy cells.
Shockwave therapy works, essentially, by creating tiny disruptions and “microtraumas” where tissues have become chronically inflamed and painful. It does this by generating tiny pulses of energy—shockwaves, in other words—which enter the skin and tissue through contact with a handheld device. This doesn’t break the skin—no incisions are necessary.
To put it simply, shockwave therapy helps re-trigger a healthy and necessary inflammatory response in your body, after the initial inflammatory reaction stalled out and was insufficient to complete the repairs on its own.
In the short term, this does mean that you might experience some mild pain and aching for a few days after a session. But this is a good thing. It means that your body is finally taking the necessary steps to heal your injury.
Is It Right for You?
Shockwave therapy is an extremely impressive technology that has achieved great results for many of our patients. It can be a very effective option for most forms of heel pain, including plantar fasciitis, as well as many other types of chronic soft tissue injuries.
The fact that it is convenient (with very short appointments), non-invasive, drug-free, and devoid of any known side effects (beyond some mild post-procedure soreness) only adds to its appeal.
However, we also understand that each case is different, and will never conclusively recommend any specific treatment option without first making a thorough evaluation of your condition, understanding your lifestyle, and considering all other options.
While shockwave is highly effective in a wide variety of situations, it actually isn’t even the only advanced, non-invasive therapy for pain we offer at Premier Podiatry Group! We might instead consider MLS laser therapy, which triggers many similar healing responses and can be effective on many of the same conditions, but works totally differently—most notably, by suppressing inflammation instead of triggering it.
Each approach has its pros and cons, so we’ll be sure to address those with you fully before you make any treatment decisions.
Of course, whether we recommend shockwave therapy specifically, the most important thing is that you don’t allow yourself to continue living with chronic foot or ankle pain! The truth is that 9 in 10 cases (or more) can be treated effectively without surgery, especially considering the many advanced therapies and techniques we have available. So there’s no need to put up with the pain any more!
To schedule an appointment with the team at Premier Podiatry Group in Ebensburg or Johnstown, give us a call at (814) 472-2660. You can also request an appointment online, and we’ll reach out to you to confirm a time.