Plantar fasciitis heel pain is the most common cause of ongoing heel pain here in Australia. Don’t be put off by the term ‘plantar fasciitis’ – it simply means the inflammation of a tissue (a fascia) at the bottom of your foot. It’s been found to affect 10% of middle-aged and older adults as well as runners – and it’s one of the top problems we see and treat here at Cartwright Podiatry, day in and day out.
Our patients best describe plantar fasciitis heel pain as excruciating pain for the first steps in the morning, that can ease after a few minutes of walking but recur when standing again after rest. It can be extremely debilitating – making exercise, work and regular daily activities painful and uncomfortable. For the full low-down on the causes and symptoms of plantar fasciitis, see our heel pain page.
Heel pain vs heel spurs – is there a difference?
The term heel spur is commonly used interchangeably when talking about plantar fasciitis heel pain, but if we’re getting technical, this isn’t quite correct. A heel spur is a type of bony spur (hard calcification) that develops on the bottom of the heel bone. You do not have to have a heel spur to have plantar fasciitis heel pain, as by definition, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue.
Heel spurs can also develop in response to damage to the heel, but they are rarely the cause of the type of morning heel pain that plantar fasciitis is best known for. Interestingly, it’s estimated that 10% of the population have a heel spur, whether they have any heel pain or not. We see many radiographs of patients that don’t have heel pain but do have a heel spur, or that do have heel pain but do not have heel spur.
So, which treatment is leading the game when it comes to heel pain?
With plantar fasciitis heel pain being such a prevalent problem, treatments are constantly being reviewed to understand what can deliver the best results for patients. Over recent years, there’s one treatment that has consistently proven to deliver superior results: shockwave treatment.
Shockwave, otherwise known as electrocorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), has repeatedly proven in studies to have both a high success rate in treating plantar fasciitis, as well as patient satisfaction after its use[4,5,6,7]. According to Podiatry Today, “of the treatment modalities that have been evaluated with robust research designs, extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) has arguably the best evidence to date” in the medium and long-term. Perhaps the only better news than its effectiveness and satisfaction, is that we’re proud to have shockwave available for your rehabilitation in our Tahmoor clinic.
It’s important to point out that shockwave is a completely non-invasive treatment that requires no needles, surgery or long recovery periods. Here at Cartwright Podiatry, we believe that surgery is a serious procedure and shouldn’t be the first option when there are non-invasive treatment options available that can deliver the same – or better results. This makes shockwave a brilliant first-line treatment option for those where other treatments haven’t delivered the results they were hoping for – but they don’t want to rush into surgery.
Tell me about shockwave – it sounds painful?
Don’t worry! While the name can sound a little bit intimidating, shockwave is a very simple treatment process where the actual shockwave handpiece is activated for no more than five minutes per foot, as per the clinical guidelines. It uses acoustic energy to generate ‘pulses’ that move through the foot and to the damaged fascia when the handpiece is applied in the right spot over it. It works to:
- Reduce pain
- Reduce inflammation
- Facilitate the body’s healing and repair process for new injuries
- Reboot the healing process in longstanding conditions or injuries
- Encourage the formation of new blood vessels
- Stimulate the regeneration of tendons
- Reduce muscle spasticity
- Disintegrate tendon calcifications
If you want to learn more about shockwave and if it can help you, we’ve written all about it here.
Most people require 3-6 shockwave sessions to get the best results and these are spaced one week apart. We expect your pain to decrease from week to week – and for the shockwave to work to help repair the fascia itself, while we use other treatment methods like foot orthotics and good, supportive footwear help reduce the strain away from the fascia to keep your feet supported and help prevent any causative factors that may set you backwards.
Ready to hit the ground running?
If you’re struggling with heel pain – whether it’s been weeks, months or years – our experienced podiatry team are here to help. You can book your appointment by calling us on (02) 8405 6850 or book your appointment online.