Heel pain can affect anyone. Athletes. Workers. Seniors.
It’s one of the most common symptoms we see at our offices. And typically, when people come in to visit, it’s because their pain has been lingering for weeks, or is seriously limiting their lifestyle.
Fortunately, we can help.
The experts at the Northwest Extremity Specialists understand how important it is to be able to walk, run, and play without pain. And we pride ourselves on offering state-of-the-art treatment options to help you get better fast—without surgery.
This includes extracorporeal pulse activation treatment, an exciting new option that is effective, non-invasive, requires no downtime, and can be performed in office in as little as 30 minutes or less.
But first, a little background on your heel pain.
Why Your Heels Hurt
Heel pain is a symptom, not a condition. That means there is more than one possible diagnosis. Even then, multiple underlying causes may be at play, including flat feet, improper footwear, or overuse.
The most common heel pain condition is plantar fasciitis. The arch of the foot is supported by a long band of tissue called the plantar fascia, which extends all the way from the heels to the toes.
Unfortunately, the plantar fascia can become irritated and inflamed over time, usually right underneath the heel or just in front of it. The pain from this condition is often worst right after getting up in the morning, or after sitting for a long period of time.
Besides plantar fasciitis, other conditions that can cause pain around the heels include:
- Arthritis—joint pain caused by disease, trauma, or wear and tear
- Achilles tendinitis—irritation or inflammation of the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel
- Bursitis—inflammation of the fluid-filled bursa sac at the back of the heel
- Haglund’s deformity—a bony bump that forms at the back of the heel
- Nerve compression—pinching or obstruction on sensory nerves that serve the heels and feet
- Sever’s disease—irritation to the growth plate of the heel bone, which is vulnerable during childhood and adolescence
Introducing Shockwave Therapy for Heel Pain
Minor cases of heel pain can usually be treated with traditional methods—rest, ice, elevation, physical therapy, proper shoes, and arch support.
However, by the time most patients come to visit us, they’ve often already tried these methods without success. Many are worried they might need surgery and are looking for any alternative that might work.
For these situations, extracorporeal pulse activation treatment—also known as EPAT or shockwave therapy—is often the long-awaited relief they’ve been looking for.
What is EPAT?
EPAT is an advanced technology that uses pulses of acoustic wave energy to rapidly increase the body’s natural healing rate.
When pain becomes chronic, the body often loses its ability to adequately address the discomfort. Healing is slow, and the pain may linger for weeks, months—even years. Bad cases of plantar fasciitis that are not adequately addressed early may reach this stage, along with other painful conditions, such as Achilles tendinitis.
When EPAT is used over a painful area, the energy pulses create “microtraumas” deep within the soft tissues that have become chronically inflamed. This triggers an accelerated response from neighboring cells. Metabolism and circulation increase. A flood of oxygen and nutrients rush in, leading to ultimate healing of the damaged tissues.
We’ve found this treatment option highly effective for even chronic and severe heel pain, as well as pain in other parts of the feet and ankles. It is a great alternative to surgery for most patients and comes with many other obvious benefits:
- It’s non-invasive, so no scarring or risk of infection
- No medications or drugs are required—no NSAIDs, no injections, not even anesthesia
- No downtime
- Sessions can be as brief as 10-15 minutes, with results in as few as 3-4 weekly sessions
Other Important Things to Know About EPAT
Unfortunately, insurance does not typically cover the EPAT procedure, although it may qualify under HSA or FSA plans—check with your provider. The cost is $600 per affected side for the entire treatment.
- Total length of therapy time: 12 weeks
- Total treatment sessions: 3, spaced approximately 7-10 days apart.
- You should stop taking all anti-inflammatories during treatment, including ibuprofen, Aleve, Advil, naproxen, topical anti-inflammatory creams, etc.
- You may take acetaminophen / Tylenol for pain, since it does not have significant anti-inflammatory activity
- Do not ice the treatment area.
- Limit walking barefoot during treatment. Always wear shoes with good arch support.
Other Treatment Options
Of course, depending on the diagnosis and your needs, our office also offers a wide range of alternative treatment options. This includes the traditional basics like stretching and cortisone injections, as well as more advanced treatments: custom orthotics, platelet-rich plasma therapy, amniotic tissue injections, and more.
The key takeaway here? We’re always working hard for you. That’s reflected in the wide range of specialties represented in our medical team. It shows in our passion for incorporating the latest research and technology into our treatment protocols. And it’s why we always take as much time as necessary to explain your condition and talk through all your medical options.