What is ESWT, and will it help my plantar fasciitis?

One of the most common complaints seen in patients coming to foot and ankle specialists is heel pain.   A 2010 study estimated that

5 million people

are being treated for heel pain at any given time.  ¹

There are many causes of heel pain.  The most common is Plantar Fasciitis.

One tool we have at Twin Cities Foot and Ankle Clinic is ESWT.  This stands for Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy.  But many people don’t like the sound of a treatment that has the word “shock” in it, so it is also being called Acoustic Compression Therapy.  Simply put, it is a pulsed ultrasound wave that goes into the tissue, and will help break up scar tissue.  It can be used on tendon, ligament, muscle, or joint.  Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most researched uses for this technology in the lower extremity, along with Achilles Tendonitis.

Up until recently, the only option for using this technology, which is similar to that which is used to break up kidney stones in the operating room, was the OssaTron.  This required patients to be under general anesthesia and left them with quite a lot of pain following the procedure.

photo courtesy of Sanuwave Health, Inc.


We now have many options for a lower intensity of the same technology that can be used in the clinic with no anesthesia and no lasting pain.  In fact, most patients notice less pain upon standing immediately following the procedure.  Our particular unit is called the Well Wave.  We have used this treatment for over 2 years on over 250 patients, including some Minnesota Vikings, and have noted remarkable results.  It is not a one-time fix, but it allows our patients to stay active while undergoing treatment.

Recently, a study was done on long term satisfaction of patients who used this technology for Plantar Fasciitis after failing other treatments.  “The study included 75 patients and 87.5 percent of the patients were either satisfied or very satisfied with their ESWT experience at an average of nine years after treatment…”. ²

¹(Tong KB, Furia J. Economic burden of plantar fasciitis treatment in the United States. Am J Orthop. 2010; 39(5):227-31).

²(Weil L Jr., et al. Long-term results of extracorporeal shockwave treatment for chronic plantar fasciitis. Presented at the International Society for Medical Shockwave Treatment Annual Meeting, Chicago, June 2010.)