Foot and ankle injuries are common—with about 75% of Canadians having foot health problems occur at some point during their lives—but many of these injuries heal relatively quickly. About 60% of foot and ankle injuries reported by Canadians age 17+ are ankle strains and sprains, which generally don’t cause chronic problems if allowed to heal properly in the first place. And some data shows that among patients who see their general physicians with foot complaints, about 20% simply have an ingrown toenail (something easily treated by a podiatrist).
But what if you’re experiencing a more persistent foot problem? If you have foot or ankle pain, you should consider talking to your local podiatrist about shockwave therapy (SWT). Why? The short answer is that it is sometimes successful in relieving pain when other treatments have not been. Here’s some information you'll want going into your appointment:
How Shockwave Therapy Works
Essentially, SWT works by sending shockwaves into the tissue in question and causing very precise, localized damage. This in turn triggers the body’s natural healing response so that it fixes not only the new damage caused by the shockwaves, but also rehabilitates the previous injury. SWT can be performed at different levels, which adjusts how many treatment sessions are needed to see a positive result.
What SWT Can Be Used to Treat
Podiatrists use shockwave treatment for Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis most commonly, though it can sometimes be used for other conditions as well if they involve tendons or soft tissues. You’ll often hear of SWT being used to treat “heel pain”; in most cases, that heel pain is associated with one of the aforementioned conditions.
Who Should Consider SWT
SWT is generally used as an intermediary measure when less stringent methods (stretching, heating, icing, orthotics, physical therapy, etc.) have been unsuccessful, but the patient wishes to avoid surgery. SWT has been found to be effective up to about 80% of the time worldwide. You should know that there may be some pain associated with SWT—although most patients find the accompanying relief from chronic pain more than worth it.