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Shockwave Therapy for Heel Pain, Plantar Fasciitis and Lower Limb Issues

by | March 31, 2021

An Introduction to Radial Shockwave Benefits in Podiatric Treatments

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) or “shockwave” therapy, for short, is a fantastic treatment when it comes to lingering heel pain issues that can become chronic in nature when left untreated. Being non-invasive, the wave energy generated by the technology is directed at an area of pain from outside the body, hence “extracorporeal”. The non-surgical procedure delivers waves from outside the body to trigger the body’s own repair mechanisms to increase the rate of soft-tissue healing of tendinopathy (also known as tendinitis or tendonitis) disorders that result in pain, swelling or impaired function exacerbated by, for example, simply walking or more intensive forms of movement like running.

 

How Does Shockwave Therapy Work Exactly?

First we have to understand the underlying sensitivities of pain as four main processes: transduction, transmission, modulation, and perception. Shockwave therapy targets the process of transduction, whereby tissue-damaging stimuli activate nerve endings transmitting the pain sensors to the brain. Shockwave’s effect is based on the transduction of mechanical energy, transferred to cascade various biochemical processes in target tissues. Pressure, acoustic or sound waves over-stimulate pain transmission nerves, which can lead to a reduction in sensitivity and pain, enhances blood circulation, restores through revascularization, and accelerates healing processes letting the damaged tissues know to regenerate. By reaching below the skin and into the deep reaches of the tissues where manual massage or extracorporeal tools cannot, the therapy and treatment option helps tissues return to normal healing patterns while leaving the surrounding tissues unharmed.

 

What Does Shockwave Treat

Shockwave therapy treats a wide range of conditions throughout the body from head to toe, but in terms of podiatry the primary treatment areas will address the foot, ankle, lower leg, and knee pain.

Chronic tendon, ligament, or fascia injuries don’t heal on their own. And, most people learn about shockwave therapy after experiencing chronic pain in the lower extremities by virtue of overuse, strain or inflammation on the plantar fascia ligament that connects the heel to the toes or plantar fasciitis. Typically, surgery is involved to remove the damaged portion and join the uninjured parts back together. But the basic idea with shockwave therapy is that it allows these small plantar fascia tears in the plantar to heal alleviating the need for surgical intervention.

The primary assets of why you should consider shockwave therapy is that it results in fast pain relief and restores mobility. Being non-surgical and non-invasive are only a couple benefits. Another benefit includes not having to take pain medicines or painkillers, which makes the shockwave therapy ideal to quicken recovery time and cure various indications that are a result of or caused by chronic or acute pain.

If you’ve tried insoles, massage, injections, or physiotherapy to help relieve your condition to no avail, then you might benefit from shockwave therapy.

 

Why We Only Use Top-Of-The-Line Equipment

Possibly the most widespread claim that is incorrect is that all acoustic wave, pressure, or radial shockwave therapy devices are the same. This is simply a false statement.

And why is that? A real “shockwave” travels faster than the speed of sound at more than 1,500 meters per second. But don’t get worried by the speed because the energy is safely delivered to a focal point where the blood vessel and soft tissue degeneration has occurred to speed the healing regenerative process.

Your safety and the efficacy of our treatment modalities are of utmost importance to us here at The Foot Practice. Being treated with lower-grade equipment or incorrect modalities that are not real shockwave devices may do more harm than good for your injury. That is why we use only leading, state-of-the-art equipment when treating our clients.

 

Is There a Difference Between Shockwave and Ultrasound Therapy

Although focused shockwaves are similar to ultrasound, big differences do exist. Focused shockwaves have substantially higher pressure amplitudes, which means that steepening effects resulting from non-linearities in the propagation medium (e.g. human tissue) have to be taken into consideration.

Another difference is that most ultrasound waves are periodic oscillations with narrow bandwidth, whereas focused shockwaves are characterized by a single mostly positively pressure pulse followed by a comparatively small tensile wave component.

The characteristics of shockwave and ultrasound waves are different. Ultrasound exerts a high-frequency alternating load on the tissue in the frequency range of several megahertz, which leads to heating, tissue tears and cavitation at high amplitudes. The effect of focused shockwaves is determined, among other factors, by a forward-directed dynamic effect (in the direction of acoustic pressure wave propagation), which causes a pulse to be transmitted to the interface. The dynamic effect can be increased to such an extent that even kidney stones can be destroyed. The non-invasive shockwave procedure actually dates back to the 1960s when the idea emerged to generate shockwaves extracorporeally and then transmit them into the body to disintegrate kidney stones and gallstones without damage to the surrounding tissue passed by the acoustic waves on their way to the target area. And since then, the waves of medical evidence that supports using shockwave as a modality in many medical disciplines and applications has increased in scope.

As a result, shockwaves are the idea means for creating effects in deep tissue without interfering with the tissues located along the propagation path. So essentially, shockwave treatment enables targeted treatment of a confined area resulting in increased blood circulation and metabolic activity, leading to the onset of the healing process.

 

What To Expect During and Following a Treatment

If you compare shockwave therapy for your foot condition compared with let’s say, surgery, the treatment has minimal side effects but recovery time is also shortened. During and slightly after the therapy you may experience some discomfort, which is more than normal. But most patients will experience an immediate pain relief following the treatment. However, within 2–4 hours after the treatment, they may experience some soreness in the treated area. This soreness has been reported as tolerable and not limiting. Minor bruising of the skin, swelling in the treated area, or redness may be other common side effects. But these typically disappear or resolve within a few days following a treatment. But unlike surgery, there is no anaesthesia or pain medications given during the therapy session so come as you are.

From jumper’s knee, heel spurs, insertional pain, chronic tendinopathy, media tibial stress syndrome, calcifications, hip pains or more, give us a call or book an appointment to see if shockwave treatment therapy is right to address your specific foot condition.

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