With existing treatments having limited success at healing the connective tissue disorders, regenerative medicine is preparing to fill the void. When it comes to plantar fasciitis treatment, could stem cell injections represent a low-awaited cure?
In this article:
- What is Plantar Fasciitis?
- Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
- Stem Cell Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
- Consult with Stem Cell Clinics
Plantar Fasciitis Treatment with Stem Cells
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common injuries that affect professional athletes and everyday people alike. It is also a common cause of heel pain because it affects the plantar fascia, the connective tissue which supports the arch of the bottom of the foot. In plantar fasciitis, this tissue becomes inflamed due to repetitive trauma.
Plantar Fasciitis Cause
The plantar fascia protects and relieves pressure from the bottom of your foot because it acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring. However, it can tear due to repetitive tension and stress. When it is stretched and torn, it becomes inflamed, resulting in plantar fasciitis. The inflammation can be caused by trauma from an injury, or from overuse of the tissue.
Who Is at Risk?
People who have a higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis are runners, overweight patients, and people who wear shoes that provide inadequate support. If you have a history of ankle injury, you may also be at risk, because a loose ankle can increase the pressure on your foot. There are also other factors which can determine if you are at risk of being diagnosed with plantar fasciitis:
- Occupations that require you to be on your feet for long periods of time. These include teachers, factory workers, field agents, surveyors, and some security guards. This can also be specific to people who continuously walk on hard surfaces, which increases the tension on the plantar fascia.
- Physical activities that put pressure on your heels. Aerobic dance, ballet dancing, ballistic jumping activities, and long-distance running can place you at a higher risk of developing this condition.
- Foot physiology. Having a high arch or being flat-footed can add stress to the connective tissue, because of the uneven weight distribution. The same thing can be caused by an unusual pattern of walking.
- Age. Those between the ages of 40 to 60 have a higher risk.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
A stabbing pain in the middle of your foot during your first step in the morning is the most indicative symptom of plantar fasciitis. When you get up and move around for the day, this pain may subside. The pain returns when you stand for too long or when you rise after sitting down for a long time.
How Is It Diagnosed?
The pain you feel around the bottom of your foot may be indicative of other similar conditions such as stress fractures, bursitis, lumbar radiculopathy, contusions, tarsal tunnel syndrome, and Achilles tendon injuries. Before you start any treatment, it’s important to make an appointment with a doctor to have an accurate diagnosis. During your diagnosis, the first thing your physician will check is your medical history.
Afterward, they will conduct a physical examination to check your foot and ankle, and find the areas that are more tender. This will also help accurately isolate the source of your pain. An imaging test using an MRI and an ultrasound may also be involved to check off other sources of the pain, such as bone spurs and fractures.
Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
It’s important to seek fasciitis treatment as soon as you’re diagnosed. If the condition is left untreated and continues to worsen due to your regular activities, the pain can spread to your whole foot, knee, hip, or your back. However, most treatments for this condition only aim to reduce the inflammation.
1. Foot Bracing
There are foot bracings that focus on providing extra support for your foot, to help relieve it of pressure or help stretch the tissue:
- Orthotics are custom-fitted arch supports which help evenly distribute the pressure along your feet.
- Night splints stretch your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon overnight.
2. Shock Wave Therapy
Shock wave therapy utilizes sound waves to stimulate the connective tissue to heal on its own. It’s often an option when traditional methods aren’t working. Some of its side effects include pain, swelling, bruising, and numbness.
3. Cortisone Injections
A steroid injection is one of the most common treatments for pain relief. However, continuous and multiple cortisone injections can weaken the plantar fascia.
4. Physical Therapy
There are strengthening and stretching exercises designed to provide pain relief from plantar fasciitis. These exercises will focus on stretching exercises for the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, as well as strengthening your lower leg muscles to provide your body more stability along your ankles and heels. You may also be advised to use athletic taping for extra support.
This is the least common treatment. If the foot pain becomes too unbearable, some patients choose to have their connective tissue detached from their heel. It can get rid of the pain but result in a weakened foot arch.
Most of these traditional treatments for plantar fasciitis only target its symptoms. Often, these symptoms will return because the plantar fascia is still torn or under stress.
Stem Cell Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
Regenerative medicine has introduced new approaches to plantar fasciitis that involve stem cell treatments, as well as related modalities. These treatments aim to stimulate the connective tissue’s ability to heal and regenerate the torn plantar fascia.
Potentially, this could permanently provide pain relief and prevent further damage as you continue to enjoy your daily physical activities.
Prolotherapy is a non-surgical treatment that involves targeted injections. The solution used in this treatment contains a local anesthetic and concentrated dextrose, which stimulates the tissues’ natural ability to repair its torn tissue.
Afterward, this may be followed by a stem cell injection to aid in regeneration.
2. Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy
There is another non-surgical treatment for plantar fasciitis which involves platelet-rich plasma (PRP). This stimulates the tissue to release growth factors and attract other cells.
This is especially useful for helping stem cells concentrate on the damaged area of the connective tissue.
This is an autologous procedure where the platelets are harvested from the patient’s own blood. After separating the platelets in a centrifuge, it is injected into the source of pain or point of injury.
Consult with Stem Cell Clinics
These two plantar fasciitis treatments are expanding in popularity, as patients seek out regenerative approaches to treat this painful condition.
Plantar fasciitis treatments that aim to heal the torn tissue can provide permanent pain relief. They can also strengthen the tissue and allow you to continue with your sports activities or busy lifestyle. If your current treatment is not working, consult with your doctor regarding these treatments.
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