Whether plantar fascia-specific stretching or shock-wave therapy is effective as an initial treatment for proximal plantar fasciopathy remains unclear. The aim of this study was to test the null hypothesis of no difference in the effectiveness of these two forms of treatment for patients who had unilateral plantar fasciopathy for a maximum duration of six weeks and which had not been treated previously.Methods:
One hundred and two patients with acute plantar fasciopathy were randomly assigned to perform an eight-week plantar fascia-specific stretching program (Group I, n = 54) or to receive repetitive low-energy radial shock-wave therapy without local anesthesia, administered weekly for three weeks (Group II, n = 48). All patients completed the seven-item pain subscale of the validated Foot Function Index and a patient-relevant outcome questionnaire. Patients were evaluated at baseline and at two, four, and fifteen months after baseline. The primary outcome measures were a mean change in the Foot Function Index sum score at two months after baseline, a mean change in item 2 (pain during the first few steps of walking in the morning) on this index, and satisfaction with treatment.Results:
No difference in mean age, sex, weight, or duration of symptoms was found between the groups at baseline. At two months after baseline, the Foot Function Index sum score showed significantly greater changes for the patients managed with plantar fascia-specific stretching than for those managed with shock-wave therapy (p < 0.001), as well as individually for item 2 (p = 0.002). Thirty-five patients (65%) in Group I versus fourteen patients (29%) in Group II were satisfied with the treatment (p < 0.001). These findings persisted at four months. At fifteen months after baseline, no significant between-group difference was measured.Conclusions:
A program of manual stretching exercises specific to the plantar fascia is superior to repetitive low-energy radial shock-wave therapy for the treatment of acute symptoms of proximal plantar fasciopathy.Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.