The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Study: Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Effective for Heel Pain

Posted by on Friday, August 21st, 2015


Shockwave therapy has found favor among doctors treating everything from kidney stones and erectile dysfunction to Achilles injuries and even sore backs in horses.1 It seems some of the most difficult maladies miraculously respond to pressure waves that cause fresh micro-trauma and signal the body’s natural defenses. What we often see with chronic injuries is that the body initially attempts to repair the damage, but eventually becomes “desensitized” to the pain and demands for healing over time.

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy is a relatively new technology employed by podiatrists for the treatment of plantar fasciitis heel pain which fails to respond to conventional interventions.2 The latest research confirms its effectiveness in reducing pain and improving quality of life in this cohort. NYC foot pain sufferers can find this new treatment available at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offices in Manhattan and Westchester, NY.

Horses with sore backs enjoy the benefits of extracorporeal shockwave therapy just as people with sore heels do. Image Source:

The Latest Research on ESWT

A May 2015 article published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery confirms that extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a successful treatment for plantar fasciitis foot pain.3 In a randomized, controlled, multi-center study, researchers assigned 250 plantar fasciitis patients to receive three sessions of 2,000 impulses of extracorporeal shockwave therapy or a placebo intervention once a week for three months. They gauged outcomes by the Visual Analog Scale for pain (VAS) composite score and the Roles and Maudsley score. At the 12-week follow-up, researchers noted that the ESWT group had a reduction in heel pain of nearly 70%, compared to 34.5% improvement in the placebo group. The overall success rate of treatment was between 50 and 65%.

What Is Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Like?

The results from the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery study are consistent with what we see in our office, which is that many patients with chronic heel pain benefit from shockwave therapy. Both the Manhattan and Westchester offices of The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine are pleased to offer patients this non-invasive pain therapy. People have described ESWT as feeling similar to a baseball bat tapping the foot. Our trained, board-certified podiatrists use a gun and tube attached to a special air compressor unit to deliver carefully measured pressure waves into the foot that stimulate natural healing mechanisms. Patients may report a slight increase in swelling and pain just after treatment, which can be managed with rest and elevation of the foot. Patients should avoid taking anti-inflammatory medication for up to four weeks following treatment. Gradual improvement is generally observed the next morning when patients get up out of bed, and patients typically feel a little better after each session. Full benefits are usually felt after three months of weekly sessions.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Shockwave Therapy?

Most of the patients we treat with ESWT are like “Lynne,” a 52-year-old woman from Essex, England, who worried that chronic heel pain would stop her from walking her dog, swimming, going to the gym, and standing on her feet long enough to cook dinner.4—shock-wave-therapy-eswt-for-foot-pain/ She had tried orthotics and cortisone injections to no avail. Other treatments we try early on include physical therapy, night splints, and shoe modification. Very few patients actually require surgical intervention. The only patients who may be ruled out for extracorporeal shockwave therapy are people with bleeding disorders or people who take medications that interfere with clotting (like blood thinners).

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. For more information on Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy in NYC, contact our team of plantar fasciitis specialists here.


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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.