Plantar fasciitis is one of the more painful overuse foot conditions that are experienced by physically active individuals. In the US, approximately 1% of adults report experiencing heel pain from this condition over the past year. Three quarters of these individuals also reported suffering from plantar fasciitis pain at some point over the previous month. Clearly, there is a demand for greater knowledge about the techniques available to treat this unpleasant condition. In this article, we will briefly explain three tyoes of electrotherapy treatment for plantar fasciitis.
Traditionally, the typical treatment for this condition has involved the use of splints or orthotics to keep the plantar fascia stretched during night-time. This will help reduce the pain you experience with the first few steps of each day, if you suffer from plantar fasciitis.
There are also a number exercise and lifestyle modifications that you can try to ease the pain of the condition. Doctors can also prescribe anti inflammatory medications for the condition. The use of ice or a cold compress can provide temporary relief.
Outside of these options, the available conservative treatments are relatively limited in number and effectiveness.
However, in recent years, the role played by electrotherapy in the treatment of plantar fasciitis has increased. The types of electrotherapy treatment for plantar fasciitis that we will discuss below are:
- Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis via Therapeutic Ultrasound;
- Treating Plantar Fasciitis via TENS therapy; and
- Treatment via Shockwave Therapy.
Using Therapeutic Ultrasound To Treat Plantar Fasciitis
Therapeutic ultrasound has recently shown promising results when used to treat plantar fasciitis patients who have failed to gain relief from the more traditional treatment options.
This type of treatment is known as percutaneous ultrasound fasciotomy. It essentially uses ultrasound energy to break apart damaged tissue.
Doctors will imaging tests (such as ultrasound imaging, which differs from therapeutic ultrasound) to ascertain the precise location and extent of tissue damage from plantar fasciitis. Once the location of the tissue damage has been determined, the skin over that area is numbed. The doctor will then make a small incision in the skin and insert a small probe that resembles a needle.
Ultrasound energy is uses to produce high frequency probe vibrations and break down the damaged tissue in front of the probe. The probe is also equipped with a system that sucks up the damaged tissue and removes it from the body.
At the end of the procedure, the probe is removed from the incision and the incision is closed with a simple bandage.
This procedure has the advantages of being very short and complication free. It can usually be performed in a doctor’s office as an out patient procedure.
You should be aware that you will still need days of rest after the procedure and you may also need to wear a walking boot or other similar orthotic device to allow your wound to heal fully. You may also benefit from physical therapy during the recovery period.
Using TENS Therapy As A Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Option
Another common application of electrotherapy to treat plantar fasciitis involves the use of TENS therapy. It essentially uses a low frequency electrical current to stimulate the affected area of the plantar fascia. The aim is to improve blood flow through the area. In addition, a TENS unit uses the resulting nerve stimulation to block the pain signals produced by the condition.
The electrodes of the TENS unit are usually attached to your feet, although in some cases they may be attached to your calves instead. The electrodes deliver a low level electric signal through your feet to produce muscle contractions that improve blood circulation. You may also experience a pulsing sensation in the soles of your feet during the procedure.
Some of the main advantages of this type of therapy are its minimal risk of side effects and the fact that it can usually be performed at home. As with all forms of electrotherapy, this procedure is not suited for those who use a pacemaker or are pregnant or menstruating.
Shockwave Therapy For Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) has also gained ground in recent years as a form of plantar fasciitis treatment. This procedure transmits radial sound waves to the affected area of the plantar fascia. It is a completely non invasive treatment that requires no surgery.
It reduces plantar fasciitis pain by dulling the body’s pain sensing nerves (called the nociceptors). Another benefit of the procedure lies in its ability to increase collagen production. This promotes faster healing of damaged soft tissues, including the plantar fascia.
It also helps create new blood vessels in the affected area through a process known as angiogenesis. This in turn improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissues and help them heal faster.
In addition to plantar fasciitis, ESWT can be used to treat other foot problems like arch pain, metatarsalgia and stress fractures.
How Does ESWT Compare To TENS Therapy As An Electrotherapy Treatment For Plantar Fasciitis?
Compared to TENS therapy, ESWT is much more expensive, with some treatments costing as much as $1000. It also cannot be performed at home. Instead, treatments must be administered by a qualified medical professional in a clinic or other similar institution. Some patients may also experience a degree of pain and discomfort during the procedure. Redness and swelling may also be experienced.
Like TENS therapy, ESWT is not a safe option for those who are wearing pacemakers, are pregnant or are menstruating.