Shock-wave therapy treats heels, elbows

You many never have heard of the disease “plantar fasciitis,” commonly known as painful heel. But if you develop this problem, you’ll remember the pain.

Healing the condition can be difficult. Now doctors are using shock-wave therapy, a treatment that has been used for several years to break up kidney stones.

Shock-wave therapy has been used on foot-sore team members of the Boston Celtics and Texas Rangers, enabling them to play another day. It also works for less lofty mortals.

Continued stress from walking and running triggers this problem. The plantar fascia is a thick structure that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. It supports the arch of the foot and, like the string on a bow, is subject to strong forces. When it is injured, inflammation results and the foot hurts.

Seven million afflicted
Small wonder that so many people, about seven million North Americans, suffer from this condition.
Today, the typical worker walks seven miles a day, the busy housewife up to 10 miles a day.

The average person walks 70,000 miles in a lifetime, almost three times around the earth. Humans also walk on concrete,uy tight ill-fitting shoes and are often overweight.

Tennis elbow facts
In 90 per cent of cases, plantar fasciitis is unrelated to sports, but it’s frustrating when it strikes people who enjoy such activities.

A tennis player said to me several months ago, “Why has God done this to me?” She had developed both plantar fasciitis and tennis elbow.

An estimated eight million North Americans suffer from tennis elbow, which can result from any activity that requires gripping and continued stress. This explains why carpenters, dentists, window cleaners, pianists and gardeners often complain of the pain.

For tennis players, it occurs more frequently in older people, but it does not respect ability. Weekend hackers get it just as readily as professionals.

Treatment promotes healing
Dr Robert Gordon, a prominent Canadian orthopedic surgeon, has been using shock-wave treatment to alleviate both conditions for the last two years at Toronto’s Etobicoke General Hospital.

He says the therapy cures tennis elbow in 63 per cent of cases and 72 per cent of those suffering from painful heel.

In the U.S., doctors treated 364 patients with chronic heel pain and found the therapy effective in 72 per cent of cases.

Dr Gordon says that shock-wave therapy works by causing miniature fractures in the tissues. This improves the circulation and increases the activity of cells called osteoblasts, which promote the healing process.
Patients feel better in six weeks, but complete healing requires three months.

Next page: Takes 20 minutes


Takes 20 minutes
Shock-wave treatment takes 20 to 30 minutes, and patients can return to work the same day. Gordon claims the only side effect is occasional bruising. He has not encountered any serious complications.

Is there any way to prevent these injuries? We can’t stop walking. But we can use common sense when playing tennis. If you begin to get mild pain during a game, your elbow is delivering a message.

Remember to warm up before the game.

Researchers warmed up the tendons of rabbits and then tested them for strength. They found that after an initial exercise, the tendons endured more force without harm. 

And if your heel starts to hurt, don’t plan a long hike. Give your tendons a rest before they become hot and painful.

For more information, call 416-545-1166 or 905-949-6669. Or use Dr. Gordon’s e-mail address: [email protected]