Exactly one year ago, I suffered my first surge of heel pain while out on a long run. It subsided after a day of rest but reared it’s ugly head every time I laced up my running shoes. I tried different healing techniques over the next couple of months: icing, rolling, and complaining. All seemed to keep it at bay until last October when I enjoyed a day of hill running and I was sacked. I contacted my sports medicine doctor and she quickly assessed the injury as Plantar Fasciitis. She said due to it’s aggressive nature we had to hit it hard and fast for a quick and full recovery.
I began physical therapy with ATI Physical Thereapy and was well on my way to strengthening my ankles and enjoying twice a week foot massages. Sadly after three weeks of PT work, my pain, even though it would ease up, would find me every morning as I rolled back out of bed to hobble to the bathroom to begin my mourning routine.
It was then time to experiment with Platelet Rich Plasma, or PRP. After explaining the procedure to me, my doctor advised I go home and read up on it all. Since PRP is still so new to the sports world, there wasn’t a true guarantee it’d be 100% successful, and thanks to it’s experimental stage, it isn’t covered by most insurances.
Now, the initial pain began in April 2014, the chronic, daily pain appeared in October of 2014 and it was now January of 2015. I hadn’t run a step since that last day of hills and I was truly depressed and heart broken over the whole situation. Running had become a way for me to release tension, it was “my time”, and it was something that I’d stuck with for the past 5 years and had become pretty darn good at (at least in my own mind..) So the thought of giving it all up, throwing it all away over damn foot pain, left me feeling lost and deflated.
I had to take the chance of something working…
The procedure took about an hour. It began with a blood draw. The blood was then spun down to separate the plasma from blood. The doctor then reassessed my foot and marked off all the places I experienced pain. My heel looked like a battle zone covered in “X marks the spot” tags. She then used ultrasound to locate the nerve as well as blood vessels. She later informed me that my fascia, which is tendon material, had pretty much turned to bone due to all the calcium build up as a healing strategy of the body. And that’s also when I met my heel spur, Charlie.
Once she had the nerves and blood supply located, the nerve block was put in place. Now, Novocaine hurts because it’s basically an acid being injected into the your body, but the wonderful news about that Novocaine is that it numbs the upper layer of skin, just enough to allow an epidural type needle to be injected into your nerve where more numbing agents are pumped directly into the foot. It took three different shots of medication to completely numb my heel…except for bone…it’s pretty much impossible to numb bone (well, hello, there Charlie, you’re gonna hurt like hell when that needle touches you!) Once the foot is numb, the dr takes a needle and begins stabbing the fascia, breaking up the area so as to give the body another opportunity for healing/growth. And that’s what the platelet rich plasma is all about, healing.
The first two weeks were the hardest for me. I couldn’t actually walk on my foot due to the swelling and pain so I opted for crutches or simply crawling around. After that, I noticed a decrease in the daily burning/pain of my heel, and by the 4th week I was able to start doing some minimal running again. I still experienced the tale-tale signs of PF, the tightness in the morning and pain after a run, but overall, I truly felt as if I was a success story.
However, my story doesn’t end just yet, even though my pain had certainly decreased, I still experienced discomfort from the heel spur as well as the PF, but this time around it was back to just the “normal” PF symptoms, back to where I was before October, so after discussing it with my doctor, I’ve opted for another round of PRP. Again, it’s out of pocket ($300) and it’s gonna be painful, but if it will return me back to fully running, I’ll suffer through it.
Simply put, if you want something bad enough, you’ll keep at it, through the good and the bad.
What about You? Have You ever experienced Plantar Fasciitis? What strategies did You use to combat the pain?