How EPAT Can Help Your Heel Pain

We love how many active, healthy Texans we see every day. We’re not referring to within the practice either. We constantly see a plethora of bikers and runners out on the trails, parks, and roads that make Austin such a livable city.

The state of Texas is also fortunate to have pleasant temperatures all year round, which makes it easy to be active. (Well, ‘pleasant’ is relative—we know that June, July, and August in this city have their own challenges to being active. We’re looking at you, 100-degree days.)

Regardless, the point stands. As a doctor’s office, we’re enthused to see so many active and health-conscious Texans take control of their well-being. But, as we hinted earlier, we don’t JUST see runners and bikers out on the roads. Over the years, our practice waiting room has seen many athletes with a whole host of issues.

One of the more common culprits we encounter among runners is heel pain, although this condition is not confined only to this type of athlete.

Athlete with heel and ankle pain

Heel Pain and Active People

The term “heel pain” is a bit of a catch-all anyway. One of the more common manifestations of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. Ordinarily, the thick, bow-shaped plantar fascia runs from the heel to your toes and basically acts as an airbag for your steps. This band absorbs shock.

However, there’s only so much stress and shock your plantar fascia can absorb before small tears begin to develop. The first sign of problems with the plantar fascia is a tell-tale stabbing pain with first steps in the morning or after a period of inactivity.

Some of the more common risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Obesity. Excess weight strains the plantar fascia considerably.
  • Certain types of activity. We’ve already spoken about runners, but other athletes aren’t immune. Soccer and basketball players run a considerable amount and might develop plantar fasciitis from mile after mile of running in-game. Likewise, athletes who are utilizing explosive jumping movement, whether as cross-training or for a sport like track and field, could be at just as much risk of plantar fasciitis as a marathoner.
  • Certain professions. The plantar fascia’s primary purpose to absorb shock while standing and stepping. Therefore, it makes sense that those who are logging more steps will be at a higher risk. Think waitstaff, teachers, retail workers, or factory workers. While the increased activity is amazing for overall health, it’s problematic for your plantar fascia.

This is Public Enemy Number 1, as far as heel pain goes, but we often see other conditions as well. Consider Achilles Tendinitis. This type of heel pain is a direct result of overuse of the Achilles tendon, the thick tendon at the back of your heel.

The patient we often see displaying these symptoms is typically a ‘weekend warrior’ as well. Sitting most of the week and then running or biking considerably over the weekend usually places a lot of strain on your heels.

This usually manifests itself as a pain or stiffness right above your heel after a run, bike, or hike. Tenderness and stiffness are some of the hallmarks of this condition and can be worse in the morning.

It’s also worth pointing out that while active people are at risk of both of these conditions, the mechanics and causes are completely different. And yet a person might describe their symptoms of both conditions to our staff as “heel pain.”

For instance, patients with plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis will both be more in more pain after strenuous physical activity. But the actual section of the foot that is inflamed is completely different.

There are a number of treatment options we could recommend for this. In advanced cases, surgery might be the best course of action. But we always try our best to avoid surgery for soft issue injuries unless there are no other alternatives. Our practice can promise you that.

Per that promise, we can offer some good news. While heel pain is a catch-all term that covers distinct conditions, we can offer some new and ground-breaking treatment options to relieve you of your soft-tissue inflammation and reduce pain, both for plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.

EPAT

Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT) is one of our go-to treatments options for soft tissue injuries, such as Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis. This treatment yields great results for our patients while being time-efficient, non-invasive, and relieving pain through the body’s own healing processes and mechanisms.

So how does it work? Essentially, EPAT is a series of applied and controlled pressure waves to the afflicted area. This seems counterintuitive at first. Pressure, after all, caused the pesky heel pain that’s preventing you from continuing to train for that marathon. Well, EPAT technology uses these pressure waves to accelerate your recovery.

This happens through improving circulation to the affected area. While we can do a lot of good for your symptoms with different treatment options, your body’s own healing processes are a lot less invasive and more efficient.

Applying pressure waves is an anti-inflammatory effect that creates very, very slight microtraumas. These microtraumas are in no way a danger to your body, but they do remind your body that there is an issue in this affected area. The result is the body devotes its resources to healing and repairing this area, which comes with increased metabolic activity, improved blood flow and an altogether better healing process.

Doctor examining feet of patient

Benefits of EPAT

The rationale and evidence behind EPAT is sound and compelling, but we find that our patients are often most excited by the benefits it can provide them from a care perspective. We don’t blame them: EPAT’s a tremendously efficient course of treatment.

The procedure, for one, causes nothing more than a slight soreness in the affected area and most patients have no issue tolerating this. This soreness usually dissipates within a day or two.

EPAT application also does not require much time on your end. The number of sessions and the duration of each session varies, but, generally speaking, a few 30 minute sessions over the course of 3-5 weeks is often enough to expedite your recovery. (Contact our office for specifics, as everyone’s soft tissue injury and health is unique to them.)

And the results? Well, a Podiatry Today article discovered that 87.5% of patients were either satisfied or very satisfied with their EPAT treatment. That’s a very encouraging number!

When you take the composite view, we’re looking at a non-invasive, time-efficient, extremely effective treatment plan that we can often recommend as an alternative to surgery.

Reclaim Your Hobbies with EPAT

It can be extremely frustrating to want to continue a hobby, but not be able to as a result of your heel pain. We want to help you get back out doing what you love and a few targeted sessions of Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Therapy may be able to do just that. Call our office at 512-328-8900 to schedule an appointment!

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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