Monday, May 20, 2024

I Did Shockwave Therapy for My Plantar Fasciitis- Here's How It Went

My legs and feet have always been a mess.  I've dealt with Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, muscle imbalances, compartment syndrome after being stuffed in a coach class seat for 8 hours and your usual foot pain from being fat but active for workouts.  About two years ago, I started having issues with the ball of my feet from walking in Grandma's cemetery.  Something about the asphalt there just killed my feet but nowhere else.  Early last year, we started walking at a new to us park and I got the same pain but it also coincided with new to me insoles.  I started a cycle of trying new ones to see what would help.  When I finally did, is when Mom got sick, passed and the aftermath of all of that.  We spent two months completely abandoning our exercise routine.  We'd occasionally walk for mental health but we'd never taken a break in strength that long.  My balance had never been good but now it was to catastrophic levels.  In December after resuming walking again, my feet flared into a lovely case of Plantar Fasciitis.  I've dealt with it before and knew the steps I needed to take to rectify it.  All it did was get worse to the point I couldn't even flex my foot laying in bed.  I took a fall day one of vacation the previous year and cracked both shins but good.  It coincided with a less active time and when the bone laid over the damage, I'm positive by the two huge lumps on my shins, it pulled some other stuff in with it and created even more imbalances.  Hurray.

I got to the point I couldn't bear weight.  The muscle tightness resembled the compartment syndrome I suffered in 2016 and I really did not want to go through dry needling again if I didn't have to.  I dug merciless at my muscles for over a month to at least get to the point where I could flex my foot in bed.  I tried walking again but we'd have to go to a different park when it was all flat.  I limped for one lap and bawled my eyes out.  We were able to do a lap and a half for a week, then one 1 3/4 then two and 2 1/2 until eventually three which is what we currently do.  At one point, I thought it was getting better and then it just wasn't.  I was adding PF strengthening exercises and needed to add ankle strengthening as well as my previous leg physical therapy which I'd completely abandoned.  All I could hear was the sound of my chiro's words echoing in my ears:  "You have to do these exercise for the rest of your life or you'll have problems."  

Yes sir...and here I am.

Whilst scrolling Instagram last May, I came across an ad for a local chiro that did shockwave therapy on knees.  I saved it for Mom because she was bone on bone and was in a lot of pain for many years and was on a non-narcotic pain killer for it.  I was going to tell her and then the worst happened and I couldn't.  I saw the ad again and did some research and it was proven incredibly successful for plantar fasciitis.  I wished my own chiro did it but it wasn't listed on their website.  A reader here said they were doing it as well and felt better so I bookmarked it for a time we weren't bleeding money since a lot of our annual expenses (in addition to a new car) hit at the beginning of the year.  After the algorithm noted my interest, it started showing several shockwave chiros that were doing $50 intro sessions.  I knew they were $200 a pop NOT covered by insurance.  So I figured I would go to three of them for the intro sessions and see how things felt.  I was told by one of the girls that answered the phone that it would feel like "a rubber band snapping the skin."  Well, I'd had something similar done for some revolutionary toe fungus treatment  (that didn't work) after I dropped a weight on my foot and I at least knew what to expect with that description of the procedure.

I went to the initial chiro I saw the ad for about 20 minutes away.  The Mr came with me because if it worked, he was going to consider it for his shoulder.  I will be kind and say that chiro was an utter moron.  It had nothing to do with the laser therapy and everything to do with his demeanor, way of explaining things, lack of listening and his 'humor' which he reference quite a few times.   I assure you sir, you have no humor...just a shitty attitude wrapped in a bouquet of condescension  That aside, he informed me that he was doing an evaluation so it would not be set at a 'treatment' level.  That ticked me off a bit but whatever- get to the rubber band snaps.  He geared up, put on some ultrasound gel and fired up the machine at 300 pulses at 5 power.  He went over the arch which was fine and there was no rubber band snappy feeling.  Then as he headed toward the heel, I felt this weird kind of nerve twitchy sensation which got more intense and as he hit the real trouble spots, it felt like he was driving a thin nail in the worst parts.  He was two seconds from getting mule kicked.


He went over the area again to show me how it would be less intense and he lied.  "See that was a 6-7 before and now it's a 2!"  Um, no.  You didn't hit the right spot, you were just in the vicinity but whatever dude, I won't be coming back to you anyway.  He then tried to upsell me on orthotics and trashed my chiro for not doing the same for a completely different issue 12 years ago.  Boy, BYE!

The Mr and I talked on the way home and he said the other two appointments were likely going to be 'evaluation' strength as well which would be a waste of time.  In the meantime, while booking a massage, I found out that my chiro's office DID do shockwave (not my guy unfortunately) so he called when we got home and they said they were $50 per session!!!  This is a far cry from the 'bargain' price the dbag was going to charge of $169 per session and less than we knew another one charged at $200.  This was the intro price I was going to go all over town to get.  So I set up an appointment with that guy after the deep tissue massage the following Monday.  Hey, why not do a torturous massage followed up by a treatment that will surely be way worse than what I already endured at "evaluation" levels.  Sign me up!

After I got my massage, which felt nothing like deep tissue work to me, I saw the new guy.  I'm telling you, my original chiro really set the bar and no one has lived up to him since including his own colleague.  He was the only one who did shockwave so I was forced to use this other guy.  He told me he wanted to make sure nothing was going on with my spine and hips so he took X-rays.  My spine spacing was good though touches of inflammatory arthritis at the bottom and after having a limited range of motion on a side bend on my left, the X-ray confirmed my SI joint was basically filled with calcification on the left hindering mobility and potentially causing some of the foot issues.  He said some things I knew not to be true and also didn't fully listen to what I was explaining so I zoned out, let him twist me like a pretzel and get to the shockwave.

Immediately I noticed the machine was different.  When he started, he actually did it through my socks which I wasn't crazy about but whatever.  THIS was the sensation I was told to expect with snapping against the skin but honestly there was zero discomfort which was quite a relief given my previous week's experience!  Later the Mr researched and said he thinks what I had originally was the focused version and this seemed to be unfocused which actually penetrates deeper and covers a larger surface area.  He said he wanted to see me twice a week and would start with my feet even though I kind of made it clear I wanted the adhesions removed with it in my calves and he said my calves felt fine.  Mofo... I've lived in this body for over 4 decades, I think I know how they feel when they're "fine."  Now it was going to be me going twice a week to get twisted at the hips and zapped.  I made sure to massage, dig at and gently roll at the area of my SI joint on my back since I remembered the area he focused on.  My goal was to loosen and get more range of motion into the joint so that he's not folding me up all stiff.  I don't want a violent pop down there and this guy was a brute compared to my little spider monkey chiro before.  To compare his technique compared to the one I'm used to can best be summed up in this video the Mr sent me.  I just told myself to tolerate him as long as it takes to get the required zappings in for hopefully some relief.  

When I went in for my third treatment, he's like "sooo?"  I'm like "uhhh, so what?  Still the same."  "Aww, come on!  At least make something up!"  I said if it only took two treatments then I suspect they would be out of business.  I told him the areas on the outside of my feet hurt really bad after only 10 minutes of walking and he said that was 'interesting' because they are weight bearing points.  I thought that is when the subject of orthotics would come up but it didn't.  As I'm laying on the spinal roller table, the Foot Leveler poster is all that's available to read so I figured I would ask when I have the rogue appointment with my original chiro when this dude is out.

I was able to snag an appointment with my original guy when the Brute was on vacation and asked about the Foot Levelers.  He said getting those while I'm all screwed up would be a waste of money.  Maybe in the future they could be of benefit but they mold them to your feet and if your feet are screwed up when they scan, they're scanning the problem.  Do you think mule kick man I initially went to cared about that?  NOPE!  He just wanted to sell me a shockwave package AND insoles while I still had the problem.  Brute said the insoles could help but later as well so at least there's that but he never said why.  You know what else my guy said?  He didn't think I had plantar fasciitis!  He said based on my history with the very obvious adhesions I still had (that the other dude said I didn't but he only felt through my pants) that it was a posterior chain issue and stretching out those areas would likely give me more relief.  I asked if I should stop the shockwave therapy and he said no because there was no harm in it.  It would promote tissue regeneration and such but some people respond really well and others don't.  I will be honest with you, I don't think the Brute was even doing it right because every shockwave video I've seen on YouTube, they use ultrasound gel and that dude just does it through my socks.  So I don't know if we wasted money on it or not.  I have to assume he does it the same for everyone when he does it on feet unless he doesn't want to catch the fat so he does it through clothes on me.  (You know the ones.  The ones who you know if you were skinny, you wouldn't be getting treated the way you are.)  

I had planned on doing the standard 6 treatments but we had a vacation deadline staring us down and given I felt like he didn't even know how to use the machine correctly, I cut it off at four sessions.  I got a look at the machine (but not the brand) and we found one almost identical on Amazon.  It was the price of one session with someone trained or four sessions with Brute and the Mr would get to use it.  The other benefit was I would get to use it on my calves like I originally asked to help break up scar tissue and he seemed unwilling to do.  I know this isn't the super colossal version but I don't think he was using the big boy version either.  We got an extended warranty for $20 so if there were issues it could be taken care of.  Sometimes when you feel like you're not getting the care you need, you take matters into your own hands and hope for the best.

I have read some people have immediate relief from it, some it takes weeks/months and some don't really see much improvement.  I, of course, fell into the latter but that would make sense if I never actually had it.  Brute was thoroughly convinced it was my SI joint but my guy looked over my x-rays and said while yes, there were some minor things on there, he didn't really see a reason to be aggressively going after my SI joint the way the other guy was.  He asked if I was having pain there and I said while it was a little stiff, I wasn't having pain until that guy started manhandling me.  Given my experience, I would say if you are presenting with pain in your plantar fascia in BOTH feet that isn't just a typical 'first few steps in the morning' pain, I would consider a chiropractor to check your posterior chain muscles or other load balancing issues.  I felt a slight difference in the way my body felt in two treatments of going that route that I never got with shockwave because that guy didn't listen to me about the adhesions.  I am still in that 'few months out' period where shockwave could be helping me rebuild my fascia which is always good so there still may be improvements for me.  Fascia takes forever to heal because it's hard to get good blood flow to it because of the nature of what it is.  My regular chiro did suggest going after the adhesions in my meeting point of my soleus/gastroc muscles as well as the top of my calves as these had always been problem areas for me and he said any aid in getting those broken up in addition to what he was doing would be beneficial.  He encouraged regular usage of the slant board for my particular case as well as he said my issue was more of a load balancing problem and keeping the muscles elongated was the goal. 

As you can see, you may have one idea of what something is and it may be a combination of things which is why going to a doctor who is willing to fully evaluate you and actually listen is critical.  The biggest lesson I learned from this is if I start getting ANY kind of leg/foot pain, I need to immediately go to my dude to get assessed by him.  He knows my history and based on how he reacted to my drawing of where the pain was, never suspected plantar fasciitis whereas the other guy just took my word for it.  I spent a MONTH digging my legs to even be able to comfortably lay my feet flat in bed, I rested for 6 weeks as all internet articles tell you and I could've been getting treatment and had months shaved off of my pain!  I hope third time is a charm but this is the third major leg event in 12 years and I need to get it through my thick skull...PT EXERCISES ARE FOR LIFE!!!  My balance went to complete crap and trying to build that back, strengthen my glutes, rebuild my intrinsic muscles in my feet was hard.  If I'd kept it all up from my 2016 bout of pain, I wouldn't have been in that situation.  But like many people, when you feel better, you tend to lessen then stop.  I think I'm going to have to just go in for a monthly tune up when this is truly behind me to keep things where they need to be.  It is imperative we continue PT on vacation (and that line will either be a source of pride or a head shaker depending on how we did recently).  It doesn't take that long, it's body weight and if it keeps everything on the up and up- DO IT!!  (That was more for me! 😆)  Unfortunately, my chiro said fascia is the slowest to heal due to lack of blood flow to the area so he said keep up the shockwave at home and between that, what he's doing, rolling with a golf ball to keep things pliable but most importantly the intrinsic foot exercises to rebuild the load mechanisms on the bottom of the foot, I will eventually beat this.  Unfortunately just not in 5 weeks in time for our vacation.  

I must say, I really blew out my feet big time on vacation making sure to get in 10,000 steps many days.  That came with very painful consequences but I wasn't going to hold us up even if I was slow.  I was so frustrated that I ordered this rock mat upon our return.  I put it down in the kitchen and stand on it while cooking and while it is not comfortable, I can say between that and attacking my foot with the golf ball about 5x a day for 5 minutes at a time has loosened things a bit.  It's keeping up with it that will hopefully finally break this ridiculousness up.

Overall, I think that the success of shockwave therapy makes it a worthwhile option for so many people.  I really wish I'd known about it years ago in case it could've helped my mom with her bone on bone knee issues so she could've lived more comfortably.  We continue to use our home version to treat not only my legs but both of our shoulders as I've got tendinitis in them from being a side sleeper and he's always had shoulder issues.  The one we got turned out to be a worthwhile investment on that front.  This isn't for everyone and I'm not saying you should do it, I'm just sharing my experience and that ultimately, it's a tool I'm glad I have access to.  The only thing I don't care for with the home version is it's VERY loud so we put earplugs in to use it.  Regardless, I'mma run that bad boy into the ground!

Have you ever done shockwave therapy?

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1 comment:

  1. I'm glad we got our own machine but yeah it's loud. I like the way my shoulder feels after using it but I definitely need to get on a bit of a schedule with that as I have been too random with my use of it so far.


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