Shock wave therapy for plantar fasciitis helps patient dance again

“I could not believe it,” said Shannon Ansley, 65, an environmental scientist from Pocatello.

“I thought it would be a long time before I danced again, given the pain I had in my foot and last year’s knee replacement surgery. But we danced for quite some time at the wedding. It was wonderful!”

If you had asked Shannon 12 months ago when she would dance again, she would not have been able to guess. At the time she was experiencing a great deal of pain in her left knee and eventually had knee replacement surgery to fix it.

But before her knee replacement surgery, she also started experiencing pain in her right foot. “I spent years favoring my left knee by putting more weight on the right side of my body to compensate for the knee pain. That must have been the beginning of my painful plantar fasciitis.”

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the heel due to a degenerative condition of the thick band of tissue at the bottom of your foot, which goes from the heel to the toes.

This tissue, also called a fascia, supports the muscles and arches of your foot. When the tissue gets stretched too much, tiny tears occur on its surface. These tears can cause pain and inflammation.

In Shannon’s case, she was walking more on her right foot to avoid pain in her left knee. Over time, this extra stress caused plantar fasciitis in her right foot.

Plantar fasciitis is a common ailment, but people with these conditions are at even greater risk for developing it:

  • Females
  • 40-60 years old
  • Obesity
  • Flat feet or high arches
  • Tight Achilles tendons
  • Unusual walk or foot position
  • Often wear high heels
  • Many hours standing each day
  • Wear worn-out shoes with thin soles

Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

Patients with mild cases of heel pain can try a few simple methods to ease the pain, such as ice packs, massage, stretching, rolling your foot with a water bottle, or picking up a wash cloth with your toes.

For Shannon’s condition, she underwent 4 sessions of shock wave therapy with Dr. Anthony Joseph, an orthopedics and sports medicine specialist with Portneuf Medical Group – OrthoIdaho.

Known as extracorporeal (outside the body) shock wave therapy, the treatment involves the delivery of small amounts of shock waves to injured tissue to reduce pain, break up scar tissue and promote blood flow and healing. This treatment is a good option for patients whose pain persists after the simple treatment methods listed above.

Dr. Joseph is currently the only healthcare provider in Idaho to offer shockwave therapy service to treat plantar fasciitis. “I use two types of shockwave therapies to treat plantar fasciitis,” said Dr. Joseph.

“Radial pressure waves are used to treat the surrounding areas, in Amber’s case her calf muscles. These waves break up scar tissue and stimulate increased blood flow to the targeted area.

“Focused shockwaves are targeted at her foot - the source of the injury. These waves have shown to suppress pain receptors, stimulate new blood flow and decrease inflammatory mediators. Focused shockwaves also stimulate increased levels of growth factors, which promotes tendinitis repair.

“This two-prong shockwave approach is considered the gold standard for treating plantar fasciitis,” said Dr. Joseph. “I am happy to provide it to the community.”

Getting back to work

While Shannon can still feel a little discomfort in her right foot, the pain has subsided a great deal. This helps her get back to work as an environmental scientist for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

“I work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the State of Idaho to make sure contaminated sites in southeast Idaho are cleaned up properly,” she said.

“We all work together to make sure sites associated with the phosphate mining and processing industry, which creates a huge amount of waste material that leaches into groundwater, are managed appropriately. It’s very important that we make sure that our drinking water is healthy for our grandchildren and future generations.”

Helping her get back on her feet without pain was Dr. Joseph and his staff, for whom Shannon has high praise.

“Dr. Joseph has helped my family with various things over the years. He has always been very professional and up on all the new less invasive therapies or less invasive surgeries. That's why I always like to go to him. He offers the best available care there is.”

Now that her foot pain is greatly diminished, Shannon is going to pack her new pair of orthotic sandals and visit the Oregon coast with her husband and friends.

“We went last year and I could not walk on the sand because it was too painful for my knee. Now that I am walking better, this year I am really looking forward to checking out the tide pools and walking down the beach without much pain,” she said.

Who knows, she may feel good enough to start dancing in the surf.

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