How to Treat Heel Pain With Prolotherapy
Heel pain is a common condition that most often affects the underside or back of the heel.It is usually caused by plantar fasciitis, which is pain at the bottom of the heel, or Achilles tendinitis, which is pain at the back of the heel.Heel pain is generally not the symptom of a serious condition, but it can cause you a lot of discomfort.One way to treat heel pain is by undergoing prolotherapy, which is an injection of any substance that stimulates the growth of normal cells or tissues through inflammation.Prolotherapy is a complementary and alternative medicine usually administered by osteopathic physicians.You can treat your heel pain with prolotherapy by having the injections and considering other options to boost the treatment results.
Undergoing Prolotherapy Injections
Locate a doctor who administers prolotherapy.Some medical doctors may suggest and use prolotherapy to treat your heel pain. In most cases, an osteopathic physician or surgeon will administer prolotherapy.You may decide to complement tradition medical care with prolotherapy or to use it as your main treatment. You can find a practitioner by asking your doctor, family, or friends for recommendations. The American Osteopathic Association of Regenerative Medicine also has a list of prolotherapy practitioners throughout the world at .
Recognize the three types of prolotherapy.Prolotherapy is practiced worldwide and may be called different names including steroid therapy. Your doctor may choose from three types of prolotherapy to treat your heel pain. All of them stimulate your body to produce new cells that can heal your heel pain. They include:
- Growth factor injections, which require giving you a shot of a growth factor or complex protein to stimulate the growth of specific cells in your heel
- Growth factor stimulation injections, which require giving you a shot of something, usually dextrose, that causes your body to produce growth factors
- Inflammatory injections, which require giving you a shot of a substance to cause activation of the inflammatory cascade to produce growth factor
Discuss which therapy is best for you.Talk to your doctor about which type of prolotherapy is best for your case of heel pain. In every case, prolotherapy is used as a long-term treatment that stretches out over several sessions.Your doctor may even vary the prolotherapy injections depending on the location and cause of your heel pain.
- Ask your doctor any questions you may have about activities you are able to do with prolotherapy. For example, your doctor may tell you to avoid jumping, running, or climbing.
Position yourself on the doctor’s table.Once you and your doctor have decided what type of prolotherapy is best for you, you’ll need to get yourself into a comfortable spot for the injection. This can help minimize any pain or discomfort you feel during or after the injection. It may also help relax you.
- Lie face down on the table with your knee bent and foot in the air. Relax your body as completely as you can. Your doctor will likely hold your heel to stabilize it during the injection.
Receive your prolotherapy injection.After you’re in position and comfortable, the doctor will inject your heel with the chosen prolotherapy treatment. The needle is about two inches long. Your doctor may inject the treatment directly into your heel, at the ball of your foot, or even in the arch.
- Recognize that injections to the heel or ball of your foot can be quite painful. An injection into the arch may cause less discomfort.
- Take a deep breath before the injection to help yourself further relax, which may also minimize pain. Let your doctor know if you are in serious pain or something doesn’t feel right.
- Ask your doctor about any post-treatment instructions including pain management, acceptable types of movement, and when you should get your next injection.
Watch for side effects.It’s normal for an hour or two after a prolotherapy injection that you feel like you’re walking on a golf ball.However, you may experience side effects that last a few days to a couple of weeks. If they last long, seek medical attention. Some side effects of prolotherapy are:
- Intense pain and stiffness
- Allergic reaction
- Bleeding in the injection area
- Nerve damage
Complementing Prolotherapy with Other Treatments
Take a pain reliever.Over the counter pain relievers can help relieve pain and may reduce inflammation. Using one in combination with prolotherapy and other treatments may relieve your heel pain more quickly.
- Take ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to help relieve your heel pain. These can also reduce inflammation that causes pain.
Let your heel rest.One of the best ways to treat your heel pain, especially after prolotherapy, is to give your heel sufficient rest. This includes staying off of your heel as much as possible and placing as little pressure on your heel as possible when walking. Your doctor may suggest a specific amount of time to rest your heel or you can wait until you don’t have any more pain. It may take as little as a month or up to six months for your heel to heal.You should also avoid activities that put stress on your heels such as running during this time.
- Consider low-impact sports such as swimming or bicycling if you still want to get some physical activity. These can keep you active while giving your heel a rest.
- Avoid standing for long periods or walking on hard surfaces to give your heel further rest. Ask your prolotherapist if using crutches for a few days can help your heel rest. This can also help you be more mobile.
Apply ice to your heel.Ice is a good way to reduce pain and inflammation in your heel.Putting an ice pack or using an ice massager on your heel for 15-20 minutes three times a day may help your heel heal faster and relieve your discomfort.
- Use an ice pack that you purchase or make your own with a bag of frozen peas.
- Make an ice massager by filling a paper or Styrofoam cup with cool water. Freeze the water on a flat surface until it is a solid block of ice. Then roll it on your heel for 5-7 minutes.
Stretch your heel.Doing a couple of simple home stretches every day can also help relieve pain and promote healing.You can hold the following stretches for 10 seconds each and work up to 20 repetitions by:
- Leaning forward against a wall, keeping one knee straight and lowering your heel to the ground. Bend your other knee. Lean into the wall as much as you can to stretch your heel cord and foot arch. Keep the knee fully extended on the side you’re stretching.
- Lean forward onto a countertop and spread your feet apart so that one foot is in front of the other. Then flex your knees and squat. Press your heels into the ground for as long as you can. As your heels come up in the stretch, this will stretch your arch and heel cords.
See a physical therapist.If you are having a hard time performing heel stretches at home, consider seeing a physical therapist. He or she can guide you in different exercises that strengthen your lower leg muscles, which support your ankle and heel. In addition, the therapist will show you a series of stretches for your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
- Ask the physical therapist about using athletic tape to support the bottom of your foot and reduce pain. You may also want to ask if night splints are something that may help you. Night splints will stretch your calf and the arch of your foot.
Wear supportive shoes or orthotic inserts.What shoes you wear can have a big impact on heel pain. Wearing a pair of supportive shoes or a commercial orthotic can help your heel heal and reduce pain.
- Replace any athletic shoes before they stop cushioning and supporting your feet.
- Avoid high heels and any shoes without arch support or shock absorbency.
- Get yourself a heel cup or wedge, both of which can provide pain relief. You can find these at most drugstores. In most cases, custom orthotics aren’t needed for heel pain.
Consider extracorporeal shock wave therapy.If you have chronic heel pain that hasn’t responded to prolotherapy or home treatments, talk to your doctor about extracorporeal shock wave therapy. This treatment requires directing sound waves at the heel pain to stimulate healing. This may not be the most effective treatment for heel pain and may come with side effects such as bruising, swelling, pain, numbness, and tingling.
Video: Prolotherapy to the Heel, Arch, & Plantar Fascia
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