Plantar fasciitis | Plantar Fasciopathy
Plantar fasciitis is more of a misnomer, since “itis” means inflammation, and most patients who have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis actually have a weakened, degenerated plantar fascia.
True inflamed tissue is hot to the touch, red, and swollen. Thus, the anti-inflammatory treatments do not promote repair and healing of the fascia because most cases of this type of foot pain are not truly inflammatory.
Comprehensive Prolotherapy injections (the use of dextrose Prolotherapy, Stem Cell Therapy, and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy) to the plantar fascia and its attachments stimulate regeneration and repair of the tissue. They do this by inducing a mild, temporary inflammation that triggers the production of new fibrous tissue. Once the soft tissue of the foot has been triggered to repair, it creates stronger tissue to support the foot, and the weight of the entire body.
Plantar Fasciopathy Research
Researchers are constantly trying to prove the effectiveness of one treatment over another to answer the simple question: What treatments work best for Plantar fasciitis and chronic plantar fasciopathy (disease of the plantar fascia)? Doctors writing in the medical journal Rheumatology compared the effectiveness of a number of treatment. This included autologous blood-derived products, or better known as Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, shock-wave therapy and corticosteroids.
The researchers discovered a trend that favored the PRP treatment. They noted that Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, followed by shock-wave therapy, were best in providing relief from pain at 3 months over cortisone. Shock-wave therapy and PRP had similar probabilities of providing pain relief at 6 months.1
Most times studies on PRP effectiveness even the favorable ones – rely on a single dose treatment and a hope for a “one-shot” wonder. For many suffering from chronic plantar fasciitis – one shot wonders typically do not provide the more permanant relief the patient is looking for. But as this study points out the potention for PRP is great – when administered by an experienced provider.
As in the above study, doctors writing in British Medical Bulletin evaluated the evidence for platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection as a treatment for chronic plantar fasciopathy. What they found was that the medical evidence for the use of PRP in chronic plantar fasciopathy shows promising results, and this therapy appears safe.
However, the number of studies available is limited to give a definately positive results and they would like to see more studies performed.2 In other research, doctors say they cant tell if PRP works because there is no standardized treatment and that based on “one-shot wonders” it doesn’t appear to be effective over other treatments.3 Enough so that some researchers want cortisone under ultrasound guidance restored as the primary treatment for plantar fasciitis.4
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis involves pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a flat band of tough tissue supporting the arch of the foot that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. It looks sort of like a series of fat rubber bands, but the plantar fascia is made of collagen which is rigid and non-stretchy. Plantar fasciitis is common in middle-aged people, but also occurs in younger people who are on their feet a lot. When the plantar fascia is strained, it becomes weak, swollen, and irritated.
Repeated microscopic tears of the plantar fascia cause pain that is most notable in the morning after getting out of bed. Putting weight on the injured area after periods of rest (such as sleep) will cause stress on the area and a more sudden, aching pain. Once the foot loosens up, the pain generally decreases. The pain may return, however, after long periods of standing, or after another period of rest. Plantar fasciitis may also be called “heel spurs,” but this is not always accurate because bony growths on the heel may or may not be involved.
Traditional recommendations and the patient frustration
- The first line of treatment is usually to recommend cutting back on the activity that is causing the pain.
- Massaging the foot with a tennis ball and application of ice are commonly recommended.
- Inject steroids (see above) into the foot or to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications in order to relieve the pain associated with the weakened plantar fascia.
- Often taping, orthotics, and night splints are used as well.
However, in the long run, these treatments do more damage than good. Cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to produce short-term pain relief benefit, but both result in long-term loss of function and even more chronic pain by actually inhibiting the healing process of soft tissues and accelerating cartilage degeneration. For example, cortisone will eventually weaken the fascia. If they are not strengthened, a painful heel spur will result.
Prolotherapy plantar fasciitis
Prolotherapy repairs plantar fasciitis by strengthening the fascia and providing support to the arch of the foot. Prolotherapy is a treatment that regenerates and strengthens the weakened structures, such as the weakened plantar fascia ligament. Instead of weakening and boosting degeneration as with cortisone, Prolotherapy injections to the weakened fascia will repair and strengthen the arch. When the fascia is injected with a Prolotherapy solution, the body’s own mechanism for healing is stimulated, causing an influx of blood and regenerative cells to the area. The plantar fascia becomes strong again, and the pain resolves.
When you receive Prolotherapy to your foot, there will be some soreness, so looser fitting footwear is encouraged on treatment days. You will however be able to walk out of the office as well as be encouraged to walk and move your feet during the Prolotherapy treatment period. No prolonged downtime is required, rather you can engage in activities such as cycling, running in a pool, and using the elliptical. Your Prolotherapist will provide you with guidelines for activities, and give you exercises to strengthen your feet.
If you are a runner, our Prolotherapists, being avid runners as well, will guide the runner through a rehabilitation program that includes getting the runner back to running as quickly as possible. Running on soft surfaces such as soft tracks can accelerate the process, as well as wearing proper running shoes. They will also provide the runner with foot strengthening exercises that will help prevent development of a recurrence in the future.
Prolotherapy treatments need to focus on the the spring ligament which is also called the plantarcalcaneonavicular ligament. This is one of the most important ligaments in the arch that supports the arch. But whether someone has a high arch, normal arch, or flat arch, or pes planus, if they have pain and tenderness to palpation, typically they’ll respond great to Prolotherapy because Prolotherapy stimulates the repair of the injured areas. It causes the proliferation of injured soft tissue so they repair.
1. Hsiao MY, Hung CY, Chang KV, Chien KL, Tu YK, Wang TG. Comparative effectiveness of autologous blood-derived products, shock-wave therapy and corticosteroids for treatment of plantar fasciitis: a network meta-analysis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2015 Apr 6. pii: kev010. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Franceschi F, Papalia R, Franceschetti E, et al. Platelet-rich plasma injections for chronic plantar fasciopathy: a systematic review. Br Med Bull. 2014 Sep 19. pii: ldu025. [Epub ahead of print]
3. Sandrey MA. Autologous growth factor injections in chronic tendinopathy. J Athl Train. 2014 May-Jun;49(3):428-30. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-49.3.06. Epub 2014 May 19
4. Kirkland P1, Beeson P. Use of primary corticosteroid injection in the management of plantar fasciopathy: is it time to challenge existing practice? J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2013 Sep-Oct;103(5):418-29.