One in three Americans suffers from heel pain, which results in loss of work or a reduction in daily activities.
The degree of pain ranges from a slight inconsistent twinge, to a burning or stabbing pain that is constant while moving and while at rest. Millions of dollars are spent annually on over-the-counter shoe inserts, pain relief creams, and gimmick-based shoes to try to stem the pain and to remedy the problem of the pain. But, in most cases, a patient is in need of a licensed professional for treatment.
A patient will change their shoes, their habits, their lifestyle, their activity levels, and their profession just to find a small measure of relief.
The causes of the pain will vary, as will the treatment regimen that a podiatrist can prescribe. However, currently the most common treatment is an intramuscular cortisone injection with reduced athletic exertion for two to three weeks post injection.
An injection will temporarily relieve the inflammation and muscular strain, but it won’t address the root cause of the pain. An uneven gait, leg length discrepancy, pelvic alignment, incorrect posture, pes plannus, or muscle atrophy can cause heel pain as the patient’s body attempts to compensate for the condition. Once the injection wears off, which can be anywhere from three days to three years, the pain will return since the root cause of the pain has not been addressed.
That’s all changing now. In my practice I’ve encountered higher patient satisfaction, lasting results and a lower recurrence of pain by implementing laser-based pain therapy and custom orthotics combination. Patients want a lasting solution, and an injection isn’t as effective for long-term relief in comparison to coordinated laser pain therapy and the implementation of custom orthotics.
The HyperBlue 1530 Laser will gently and temporarily raise the tissue temperature surrounding the inflamed area for an increase of blood flow and oxygen to the affected area, which promotes muscle relaxation and pain relief. Once the muscle has been relaxed, the custom orthotic then provides the stable and balanced foundation for the patient for every step they take.
A custom orthotic insert is molded to the patient’s foot and matches the contours of their feet precisely and is designed for the way the patient moves. They are used to correct abnormal motion while walking, or to provide greater cushioning to the patient’s footbed. The New York Times quoted David Schofield, president of the American Podiatric Medical Association, as saying, “A custom orthotic puts your foot in an ideal position at every stage of walking, running and pivoting. You’ll be at your most strong and at your maximum efficiency.”
By combining the HyperBlue 1530 Laser pain therapy and the use of a custom orthotic, a patient can avoid the injection pain and the possible adverse cortisone reaction that can occur, while continuing their life activities with little to no interruption from pain or discomfort. I have found my patients not only have a faster recovery from the heel pain they presented with, but they also have been able to increase their levels of activity and have a greater range of motion in their ankle and arch after the laser and orthotics treatment.
As the Baby Boomer generation becomes more active and our patients find more hobbies and adventures to undertake, the landscape of podiatric medicine will change and evolve, as will our treatment plans for them.
Learning how to best treat a patient with compassion, lasting care and faster recovery time is the daily challenge we all face as medical professionals.
Dr. Borchers is with LoneStar Podiatry & Surgery with offices in San Antonio and Floresville.
By Dr. Celeste M. Borchers, DPM