Written by Dr. Adam Siegel, DPM
Plantar fasciosis and Achilles tendinosis are two of the most common sources of foot pain plaguing runners. If you’ve ever suffered from either of them, you know they can be debilitating!
Plantar fasciosis is a type of tissue degeneration most commonly caused by overtraining, while Achilles tendinosis is a soft-tissue condition that results from changes in tissue structure.
The traditional courses of treatment for both ailments are similar: rest, stretching, pain medication, and orthotic devices, which are custom-molded inserts. When these treatments prove ineffective, surgery is often the option of last resort—but it no longer has to be.
A groundbreaking new treatment known as an amniotic tissue allograft can reduce inflammation and dramatically lower pain, and in my practice I recommend it to every patient who has attempted more conservative treatment options with little to no response.
In an amniotic allograft, hundreds of live human cells are injected into the inflamed area to stimulate the body’s cell activity. It attracts the body’s own stem cells to repair the area, sort of like an S.O.S. call. Those cells then regenerate soft tissue, reduce inflammation and lessen scarring in the affected area, ultimately reducing pain. It’s ultimately hitting the reset button on a runner’s immune response to the injury.
If you think you may be a good candidate for the procedure, here are 4 things to know about it:
- It’s less invasive and more cost effective than surgery
The two biggest barriers to surgical intervention for chronic foot pain are downtime and cost. Since an amniotic allograft is injection-based, the downtime only lasts a week. The cost is exponentially lower than it is with outpatient surgery, typically running around $500-600 for a standard dose.
- It’s been clinically-tested with positive results
In a study published by the Journal of Sports Medicine, heel-pain sufferers who were unresponsive to standard forms of treatment for six months were given a single injection of amniotic allograft. Within four weeks, each participant saw significant improvement with no adverse effects reported.
To date, more than one million clinical applications of the treatment have been administered without any reported adverse effects, according to the manufacturer.
- The treatment is new but the concept is not
Amniotic tissue has been incorporated in restorative medicine for more than 100 years, treating everything from ocular burns to dental inflammation to orthopedic injuries. Only in the last five years, though, has there been hard data to support its safeness and efficacy.
- It not only treats the inflammation but the underlying cause
In place of amniotic allograft, some physicians will promote something called platelet-rich plasma, or PRP treatment. While PRP injections can provide a stimulus for tissue healing, they only treat the inflammation and not the underlying cause.
Amniotic allograft, on the other hand, changes the environment within the body in such a way that it promotes not only tissue repair but long-term healing of complex soft-tissue disorders.
I’m incredibly encouraged by this treatment and the way it could change the game for running-related injuries. I’m hopeful that more physicians will adopt it as a viable alternative to surgery for treating long-standing, unresponsive chronic foot pain.
Dr. Adam Siegel is a board-certified physician skilled in all facets of podiatric treatment, with a special focus on diabetic care, traumatology, sports medicine, and cosmetic foot surgery. He earned his degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science in Chicago before completing a three-year surgical residency at Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Florida.
Following his postgraduate training, Dr. Siegel joined a high-end podiatric group in Chicago and took over the directorship of its downtown office. He later relocated to Lutz, Fla., to found Modern Foot & Ankle, a state-of-the-art medical facility that pairs big-city technology with small-town care.