Understanding Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis, a common source of heel discomfort, results from plantar fascia inflammation, a tissue band linking the heel bone to the toes. The pain, often more pronounced in the morning, can challenge the simplest tasks. Traditional management strategies for plantar fasciitis encompass rest, physical therapy, and medication. However, the advent of shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis has brought a new ray of hope for patients seeking non-invasive and effective treatments. This article delves into the nitty-gritty of shockwave therapy, its effectiveness, procedure, cost, and alternatives.

Decoding Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy employs high-intensity acoustic energy to stimulate healing and alleviate pain. A non-invasive procedure it can potentially help patients with plantar fasciitis evade more invasive treatments such as surgery. However, the therapy doesn’t work for everyone, and the results may vary.

Working Mechanism of Shockwave Therapy

During shockwave therapy, a healthcare professional applies ultrasound energy waves to the inflamed area, causing microtrauma. This microtrauma triggers a healing response in the body, which includes:

  • Formation of new blood vessels, enhancing blood and nutrient supply to the inflammation.
  • Hyperstimulation of nerve endings, leading to immediate pain reduction.
  • Breakdown of calcifications.
  • Increased cell permeability for improved healing.

Shockwave therapy, being noninvasive, can significantly reduce pain and other plantar fasciitis symptoms, making it a preferred alternative for those unwilling to take medication or undergo invasive surgical treatments.

Efficacy of Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis

According to a 2021 study, shockwave therapy has shown promising results in treating plantar fasciitis. The study found that four shockwave therapy sessions reduced the plantar fascia’s thickness and inflammation symptoms.

Shockwave Therapy Procedure

Shockwave therapy is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can return home immediately after treatment. There is typically no specific preparation needed for the procedure with minimal downtime. Here is a step-by-step guide to what you can expect during the procedure:

  • You will be asked to remove your socks and shoes.
  • You will lie flat on a cushioned table, with your stomach down and your legs supported by a pillow.
  • Ultrasound gel will be applied to your heels.
  • A technician will use a specialized probe to deliver compressed air shock waves to your heels.

The procedure typically lasts 10 to 20 minutes per foot. You may need two to four additional shockwave sessions depending on your pain severity.

Efficiency of Shockwave Therapy

Generally, shockwave therapy provides symptom relief for about 44% to 80% of people who receive this treatment.

Shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis is generally considered effective, according to a 2021 study. However, the wide range of results indicates that it may not work for everyone.

A small 2020 study suggests that shockwave therapy is associated with a rapid decrease in pain. Data from multiple studies indicate that shockwave therapy, especially focused shockwave therapy (FSW) and extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), is most effective at reducing symptoms, according to 2017 research.

Yet, there have not been any large-scale studies to back up these findings. Studies about the lasting effects of shockwave therapy years after treatment are inconclusive.

Pros and Cons of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy offers several benefits but may not be the best solution for everyone.

Some benefits of shockwave therapy include:

  • Noninvasive treatment with minimal preparation and recovery needed
  • Quick pain resolution
  • Considered safe
  • Lower risk of complications than medication or surgical treatments
  • Can help people with plantar fasciitis avoid unnecessary surgery

However, some downsides of shockwave therapy include:

  • Not effective for everyone
  • Multiple treatments might be needed for significant results
  • Insurance companies don’t cover shockwave therapy
  • Complications can include temporary pain, bruising, swelling, and numbness


Shockwave therapy can benefit some people with plantar fasciitis, reducing pain and promoting healing. If you’re considering shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis, it’s advisable to discuss it with your doctor to determine if it’s the right treatment option for you.

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