The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy: Examining an Emerging Foot Pain Treatment

Posted by on Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is considered a “new” or “emerging” treatment in the world of sports medicine. Yet, a recent review published in the April 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine cites 28 randomized controlled trials that indicate its efficiency. The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offices in Manhattan and White Plains offer this alternate therapy to give our patients another natural, non-surgical treatment option for injuries, such as plantar fasciitis or tendinitis.

shockwave therapy
Shockwave therapy is a remarkable new invention for treating foot injuries.

What Is Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Like?

“Lynne” is a 52-year-old woman from Essex, England, who was being treated for plantar fasciitis. “Where everything else had failed, the shockwave therapy dealt with the condition,” she said. The pain was excruciating when she got out of bed in the morning. It started in her right foot, but progressed to include the left foot as well. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to walk her dog, swim, work out at the gym, or stay on her feet long enough to cook dinner. She tried orthotics and cortisone injections, but their effects were only minor, and the condition continued to worsen. Finally, Lynne underwent several half-hour sessions of shockwave therapy (broken down into 10-minute mini-sessions) over a period of six weeks. She also used a removable cast to off-load some of the pressure during her healing.

“You have to lay on your front with your feet dangling over the edge of the bed,” Lynne explained. “Then the machine is lined up to your foot and the team turn the machine on, and it begins to ‘pulse.’ It is an unpleasant feeling, but they continue to do this until they can identify the most uncomfortable spot on your foot, and then they turn the strength of the ‘pulse’ up.” She said she took pain medication after the first session, which “took the edge off” her slight discomfort. She emphasized that the treatment was “totally worth it.”  Lynne is now back to swimming and walking her dog again, and enjoys a totally robust life without debilitating heel pain.

Review of Shockwave Therapy Shows Promising Results

The April 15 review specifically looked at shockwave therapy used to treat “chronic calcific shoulder tendinitis,” but we feel the results are still pertinent for our patients who may be considering this treatment’s application in tendinopathy of the feet and other forms of foot pain, as well.

Like plantar fasciitis sufferers, many people with shoulder tendinitis do not respond to conventional therapies. Rather than turn to surgery — which can sometimes be costly or risky — patients can try this non-invasive alternative treatment. High-energy ESWT was shown to alleviate shoulder pain, improve function, and resolve calcification issues. Low-energy ESWT only improved function.

When looking at six studies pertaining to pain relief, four of the studies (two high-energy, two low-energy) relieved pain dramatically. Two cases of low-energy ESWT resolved the pain only “slightly,” and one more had no effect.

Researchers concluded, “ESWT may be a promising approach to treating chronic soft-tissue disorders.”

Studies Pertaining to Foot Pain Relief

In addition to the latest review, we’d like to point out a few other relevant findings:

– Achilles TendinopathyResults were satisfactory for 47.2% of cases (60 out of 127 tendons) after two months of treatment. Over time, this figure increased with 73.2% resolution of pain at six to 12 months, and to 76% after 13 to 24 months.

– Plantar Fasciitis83% of plantar fasciitis sufferers said shockwave therapy improved their symptoms by 50% or more after 8.4 months of treatment. There were no complications reported among the 40 study participants.

– Fracture Healing: Success rates as high as 85% have been reported in cases of delayed or non-union following bone fractures in the feet and ankles. A review published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgeons says the results were “comparable” to surgery.

ny shockwave therapy
The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine offers shockwave therapy for foot and ankle pain in New York.

Looking for Shockwave Therapy in New York?

Our team of experienced doctors of podiatric medicine would be happy to discuss treatment options with you, including shockwave therapy and other cutting-edge procedures. Our goal is to determine the best course of treatment for each patient’s needs, and get individuals back to full mobility. Contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine today to schedule an appointment.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.