I’ve definitely been off of my A game lately. Haven’t written a thing for Runitlikeamom in I can’t remember when. Not only that, but I haven’t been able to run in over five months. Honestly, I could cry just thinking about it. That thing I love to do, that keeps me sane, that keeps me from turning into a gelatinous ball of flab – completely off limits. Why, you ask?? Well, none other than the dreaded plantar fasciitis.
Whether or not you’re a runner, you may have suffered from this relatively common heel injury. Also known as “Runner’s Heel”, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation (or, some might argue, degeneration) of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue on the sole of the foot that connects from the heel bone to the base of the toes and creates the arch of the foot. It can be caused by any motion of your legs that pulls on the plantar tendon, such as walking or running for long distances or on uneven surfaces, having foot arch problems, being overweight or wearing shoes without proper support, such as high heels. Regardless of the cause, plantar fasciitis can hurt like a mother f*&%#r. When it’s at its worst, even walking can be agonizingly painful.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you at least three or four different ways to treat this horrible, nasty little injury. Ice, foot soaks, tennis balls, rollers, splints, compression socks, cortisone shots and the list goes on and on. I’ve tried most of the them, with and without the advice of my doctor. Some methods that helped the first time I suffered from this injury did nothing to alleviate my pain the second time around. Some of my friends swear by methods that did nothing to help other friends of mine. What I have learned unequivocally on this little journey of pain is that there is no one-size fits all cure. Trial and error is always involved. If I could give someone suffering from heel pain any advice at all, it would be to consult with a doctor or other medical professional who specializes in treating sports injuries. In my case, my podiatrist has become one of my BFFs. He was able to properly diagnose me by ordering an x-ray to rule out other injuries, such as a stress fracture, while at the same time catching the fact that I had developed a bone spur, ultimately helping him determine exactly the type of treatment I needed.
After months of wearing an air cast and a night splint (albeit not as often as I should), taking two rounds of steroids, resting and applying ice and heat, I’m better but still in pain and unable to run. On my first visit with my podiatrist in the spring, he informed me of a treatment that, while not currently covered by insurance, has been overwhelmingly successful. Ninety per cent of his patients who have received this treatment have recovered from their injury. This treatment is called extracorporeal pulse activation therapy (EPAT), which is more commonly referred to as shockwave therapy, and is FDA-approved. EPAT is a non-invasive treatment option that helps to reduce the recovery period from plantar fasciitis and other injuries while also eliminating risks commonly associated with surgery. Treatment sessions last approximately fifteen minutes and consist of the release of pressure waves through an applicator that the doctor moves in a circular motion over the injured area. These pressure waves gradually regenerate damaged tissue. My podiatrist prescribed four EPAT sessions over the course of four weeks, with one EPAT session per week. My last session was nearly four weeks ago and the majority of my heel pain is gone. However, it has not completely resolved itself. My podiatrist explained that some patients do not completely heal until two months after their last EPAT session, so time will tell. Considering the price tag and the alternatives to this treatment, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I will keep you updated as to my progress. In the meantime, I’ll be resting up and watching all of the runners pass by on these gorgeous fall days with both silent encouragement and envious stares. Oh, how I wish I could join you!! Soon, I pray, I’ll be out there with you again.