Objective: To compare the efficacy of low-energy extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) and intralesional corticosteroid injection (CSI) for the treatment of plantar fasciopathy present for at least 6 weeks.
Design: A prospective, randomized, controlled, observer-blinded study over a period of 12 months.
Setting: Primary care and hospital setting.
Patients: A total of 132 patients were enrolled in the study, and 125 completed the study. Nineteen nonrandomized patients acted as a surrogate control group.
Interventions: All patients performed a standardized Achilles tendon and plantar fascia stretching program. The patients were randomly allocated to either treatment group A or B. Group A received a single CSI, while group B were referred for a course of low-dose ESWT comprising 3 treatments over a period of 3 weeks. Group C consisted of 19 nonrandomized patients who performed the standardized stretching program only.
Main outcome measurements: The worst daily pain recorded on a visual analogue scale (VAS), and the tenderness at the plantar fascia insertion as determined by an algometer. These measures were recorded immediately prior to the commencement of treatment and 3 months and 12 months posttreatment.
Results: With regard to VAS pain scores, values for the CSI (1.48; 0-7) were significantly lower than both ESWT (3.69; 0-8), and controls (3.58; 2-5) at 3 months. At 12 months, VAS scores for CSI (0.84; 0-7) and ESWT (0.84; 0-4) were both significantly lower than controls (2.42; 1-4). The tenderness values at 3 months were significantly higher for CSI (9.42; 7-11) than both ESWT (6.72; 4-11) and controls (7.63; 6-9). P < 0.05 was used throughout.
Conclusions: Corticosteroid injection is more efficacious and multiple times more cost-effective than ESWT in the treatment of plantar fasciopathy that has been symptomatic for more than 6 weeks.