Manual stretching exercises proved more effective than shockwave therapy for patients dealing with symptoms of plantar fasciitis, according to a new study in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
“The earlier you understand how stretching fits in and the earlier you learn how frequently to perform the simple plantar stretch, the less likely you will require a more invasive treatment method,” John Furia, MD, one of the study authors, stated in an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons press release.
“Shockwave therapy has been shown to be a very effective treatment for patients with chronic plantar fasciitis. [However], acute cases are probably best treated with more simple measures,” he stated in the release.
The investigators randomly assigned 102 patients with acute plantar fasciopathy into one of two groups. One group was assigned to perform an 8-week plantar fascia-specific program, while the other was assigned to receive repetitive low-energy radial shockwave therapy without local anesthesia which was administered weekly for 3 weeks.
All of the patients completed a seven-item pain subscale of the validated Foot Function Index and a patient-relevant outcome questionnaire. They were evaluated at baseline and at 2, 4 and 15 months after baseline.
The investigators found that at 2 months after baseline, the Foot Function Index sum score showed “significantly greater changes” for the patients managed with plantar fascia-specific stretching than it did for those managed with shockwave therapy. Thirty-five patients (65%) in the stretching group were satisfied with their treatment, as opposed to 14 patients (29%) in the shockwave therapy group.
The study authors did note that although the findings persisted at the 4-month mark, no significant between-group difference was measured after 15 months.