A common cause of heal pain, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a thick band of tissues on the bottom of the foot connecting the heal bone to the toes. Initial treatment efforts typically include exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and the use of custom-fitted arch supports. A new study suggests patients not responding to such treatments, especially those wishing to avoid surgery, may benefit from platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
What Is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
Made from components within a patient’s own blood, platelet-rich plasma is a concentrated mixture of the part of the blood that helps with clotting and tissue healing. Usually delivered in the form of an injection, the treatment has gained popularity for its use by some top athletes to facilitate tissue healing. PRP is sometimes administered in a different way during surgery for soft tissue injuries.
How Does PRP Therapy Compare to Steroid Injections?
In a study of 14 patients with plantar fasciitis, some of the subjects were treated with intralesional steroid therapy involving the injection of a corticosteroid into the affected part of the foot. The rest of the subjects were given an injection of PRP. Researchers concluded that patients in both groups experienced similar benefits. Differences between the two groups were not “statistically significant” according to researchers, suggesting that either form of injection-based treatment may be beneficial for patients who haven’t responded well to more conventional treatments.
How Might PRP Help Plantar Fasciitis Patients?
Risks and potential side effects associated with PRP therapy are minimal, partly because the patient’s own blood is used to prepare the mixture. It’s a minimally invasive procedure with very little downtown required. As is the case with steroid injections, there may be a temporary increase in pain after the local anesthetic administered with the shot has worn off. It may take a few weeks for the concentrated platelet mixture to fully work on tissues. Patients who do experience relief from PRP injections may be able to participate more in physical therapy without distracting foot or heal pain.
The most convincing evidence that platelet-rich plasma injections can be effective comes from use of the treatment on patients with chronic tendon injuries. Regardless of why it’s used, PRP therapy is not recommended as a first attempt at treatment. Patients with plantar fasciitis may also benefit from extracorporeal shock wave therapy (tissue stimulation with sound waves) or a minimally invasive technique where scar tissue is removed without the need for surgery.