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Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) is used to treat chronic heel pain (plantar fasciitis). "Extracorporeal" means "outside of the body." During this noninvasive procedure, sonic waves are directed at the area of pain using a device similar to that currently used in nonsurgical treatment of kidney stones.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy is prescribed for patients who have experienced plantar fasciitis for an extended period of time -- six months or more -- and have not benefited from other conservative treatments. The brief procedure lasts about 30 minutes and is performed under local anesthesia and/or "twilight" anesthesia. Strong sound waves are directed at and penetrate the heel area to stimulate a healing response by the body. ESWT is performed on an outpatient basis. Although there are no bandages, someone will need to drive the patient home.

People who are not candidates for ESWT include pregnant women and individuals with neurological foot disease, vascular foot disease, pacemakers, or people taking medications that interfere with blood clotting (such as Coumadin).

This therapy is a safe and effective alternative treatment for heel pain and only requires a short recovery time. Clinical studies show a 70 percent success rate for treatment of plantar fasciitis using Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy.