How Shockwave Therapy Is Changing The Foot Recovery Process
Injuries to your foot are going to happen. If you’re an athlete, it’s almost a guarantee that you’re going to suffer from a foot issue at some point.
But what if you could recover quickly from your foot pain, and keep training while you’re doing it? That’s exactly what shockwave therapy can do.
You may not have heard of shockwave therapy, but it’s been around for a while.
Let’s take a look at how shockwave therapy works and how it can help reduce the amount of time it takes for the foot recovery process.
WHAT IS SHOCKWAVE THERAPY?
Shockwave therapy has been around for at least 30 years, originally as a way to break up kidney stones. But until recently it hasn’t been used for much else.
There are two types of shockwave devices, an ultra-focused device and a radial device. Both are noninvasive procedures, but they work a little bit differently and are used to treat different problems. Aboite Podiatry uses both devices.
“The idea for us is that if we can use the focus device to get all the way down to bone and use the radial device to get anything elsewhere, I think that just increases their chances of healing or getting better,” says Dr. William Arthur, a podiatrist at Aboite Podiatry. “From what we’re hearing in the medical community, if you use both devices — like we do — your chances of healing are up into the 90% range.”
Ultra-focused devices send out frequencies faster than the sound barrier, which can penetrate the body down to the bone to stimulate a healing response. It can be used for musculoskeletal problems, bone injuries, and wound care. Because of its effectiveness in exciting healing cells, it’s recommended you have two days in between sessions so you don’t overstimulate the process.
Radial devices, on the other hand, emit lower frequency sound waves and are used to treat more surface-level pathology. This device is piston-driven and cannot create supersonic sound waves. However, it can be used every day to help stimulate healing.
The team at Aboite learned about the devices through Dr. Arthur, who used them extensively as part of his fellowship with Dr. Amol Saxena in Palo Alto, Calif. Dr. Arthur’s enthusiasm for the devices was infectious.
“I didn’t know much about it, but Dr. Arthur was so excited about it I figured we just had to get this equipment,” says Dr. Matthew Robison, the owner of Aboite Podiatry. “It’s been great using the shockwave devices!”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Your body goes through several healing phases after you receive an injury: inflammation, proliferative, and remodeling.
The inflammation phase is the first part of the healing phase, which lasts about 10 to 12 days. During this phase, cells from your body move toward the wound so they can begin the healing process.
Then your body enters the proliferative phase, where your wound begins to heal. The healing cells have reached the wound and begin to repair the damage. It can last for two months.
The final phase is the remodeling phase. This is when your wound is fully closed and repaired. Your healing cells begin to die off and the area returns to normal. This phase can last for a year or more.
Shockwave therapy hyper boosts your body’s response to a wound and pushes you more quickly into the proliferative phase of healing.
“Shockwave therapy stimulates cell healing, it gives fibroblast and osteoblast cells a jumpstart to migrate to an area,” Dr. Arthur says. “It’s amazing, just an incredible technology.”
Fibroblasts are the young cells that make connective tissue, whether it’s a fascia, or a ligament, or a tendon. Shockwave therapy stimulates them to go to the affected area and remodel and rebuild the tissue.
On the same side, osteoblasts are the young bone cells. When the sound waves hit those cells it tells them to go to that location and start repairing the tissue.
WHAT CAN IT TREAT?
Shockwave therapy has been proven useful in helping to heal a wide range of injuries and wounds.
“We’ve used it for tendons, ligaments, and bone problems. We also do wound care with it, it’s amazing,” Dr. Arthur says. “There’s just a multitude of conditions you can use it for. It’s noninvasive and low-risk and may make a difference in a person’s life.”
Dr. Robison says he’s seen success in treating different types of tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, neuromas and capsulitis. But that’s not all. Physicians are exploring different ways that shockwave therapy can trigger the healing process. The team at Aboite Podiatry is even exploring the possibility of treating certain muscle cramps with shockwave therapy.
“I treated hundreds of patients when I was in Palo Alto. It made me so passionate about shockwave therapy, I couldn’t believe the results that we got out there,” Dr. Arthur says. “It adds a whole new element to your practice, because it’s another avenue of treatment that most places don’t have.”
In general, treatments last for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. A patient would receive anywhere from 3 to 5 treatments (or more depending on the healing response).
In many cases, treatment will begin with the ultra-focused device being used on the area of maximum pain or tenderness. Then, the radial device will be used on the periphery of the pain. Both will increase blood flow and stimulate fibroblast to the area to begin healing, but only the ultra-focused device will stimulate osteoblast if it’s needed.
WHO CAN GET TREATMENT?
Shockwave therapy is useful to just about anyone, but Dr. Arthur says there are a few exceptions.
People who are pregnant, younger people who have a growth plate, and people with pacemakers are all recommended to avoid shockwave therapy.
Otherwise, Dr. Arthur says there are little to no side effects from using shockwave therapy, and there’s ultimately nothing that would damage a person.
“When conventional methods fail — your therapy, your injections, or your orthotics — shockwave therapy gives a patient an opportunity to treat with something that works at the cellular level without ever having to cut the skin,” Dr. Robison says. “We can get inside the foot, treat those cells, and stimulate the healing process, without ever having to open the foot. That’s been fantastic. I’ve seen improvement in everything I’ve treated.”
The prime candidates for shockwave therapy are diabetics and athletes. It’s especially good for runners and those who run cross country or track and field who may be suffering from tendonitis. During his fellowship, Dr. Arthur even used shockwave therapy on Olympic-level athletes, which let them continue their training.
“The cool thing about shockwave is that athletes that get treated can continue their training and not worry about limiting themselves,” Dr. Arthur says. “You can go and train, or keep running, or keep doing their sport while they’re getting their treatments.”
The boost in healing time and the ability to keep training can save athletes from losing out on months of training where they would otherwise have to be resting and healing from other treatments.
GET SHOCKWAVE THERAPY AT ABOITE PODIATRY
Are you suffering from tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, or other foot problems? Shockwave therapy may be able to help you begin the healing process more quickly.
Our team of doctors is ready to get you on the path of recovery and to help you decide if shockwave therapy is the right choice for you. Make an appointment to meet with one of our skilled podiatrists today by calling 260-436-3579.