High-frequency ultrasound being used to treat heel muscle injuries

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Doctors at Santa Monica's University Foot & Ankle Institute are testing out a high-frequency ultrasound method to repair injuries, specifically plantar fasciitis. (KABC)

Millions of people suffer from heel pain, and it can be due to tight calf muscles, long-distance running or shoes with poor support.

Treatment for this painful condition can be just as excruciating.

But now, there's a new device local doctors are testing that doesn't involve needles or surgery.

For 13 years, Thousand Oaks resident Doris Kotake said walking has been a struggle.

"Sometimes it feels like a bruise underneath the heel so when you walk you just keep on hitting it, and it's just very painful," she said.

The cause of her pain is a thick ligament that runs on the bottom of her heel that supports the arch called the plantar fascia.

Dr. Bob Baravarian, director of the University Foot & Ankle Institute in Santa Monica, said Kotake is suffering from plantar fasciitis, a thickening and formation of scar tissue that is progressive and occurs in the plantar fascia.

Doctors told Kotake the scar tissue along her right foot was particularly thick and difficult to break up.

Kotake has tried platelet-rich plasma and amniotic fluid injections as well as surgery, but Baravarian now has something new to offer her.

It's a high-frequency ultrasound that helps repair musculo-skeletal injuries.

"This ultrasound penetrates through the skin, through the fat and actually directly focuses on a beam of energy into the plantar fascia that helps break up the scar tissue in the fascia," Baravarian said.

A recent Arizona study on this device showed an 81 percent success rate in participants with plantar fasciitis, and Baravarian expects local study results will be better.

Using this technology, Baravarian can target exactly where the scar tissue is. The clinical trial involves two 5-minute treatments that are about a month apart. Then patients will have to wear a boot for about two weeks.

"The microscopic injury that we cause needs to be protected so that it heals without scar tissue formation," he said.

Podiatric researchers said all patients with heel pain are candidates. And if the device gets approved, doctors expect it to be much more affordable than surgery and other invasive treatments.

Doris is one of the first in Los Angeles to receive the treatment. She said just to get back to normal activities without feeling any pain would be really great.

To find out more about the study and plantar fasciitis go to the University Foot & Ankle Institute website by clicking here.
Related Topics:
healthhealthy livingexercisedistance runningrunningdoctorsmedical researchSanta MonicaLos Angeles County
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