Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Today I received a call from a runner who wants to know whether his painful Achilles tendon would get better faster if he had a cortisone shot or the newer Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection.
Cortisone injections are one of the oldest and most common treatments for tendon pain when inflammation arises due to running and over-training. However it is not always the best treatment.
What you need to understand about cortisone injections (also known as corticosteroid injections) and PRP injections is that they are both very effective at reducing Achilles tendon pain, but for very different reasons. They are essentially opposite ends of the same spectrum.
Corticosteroid injections stop the inflammatory process cold. If you're trying to remove pain, swelling and inflammation, cortisone injections are a great tool. The problem is that if you have a small tear in the tissue that needs to heal, you have essentially stopped the healing process. In addition, the corticosteroids are well know for breaking up collagen bonds. Because your Achilles tendon is really a huge cable made of collagen, corticosteroid injections can weaken the tendon and make it more likely to rupture or completely tear.
PRP injections work in the opposite way. The PRP injection takes all of the growth factors that are present in your blood stream (within the platelets) and concentrates them many times. The powerfully concentrated growth factors are then injected directly into the injured tendon tissue in order to stimulate new blood flow, unlock the body's natural healing response and directly stimulate healing of the injured tendon. If there are small micro-tears in the Achilles tendon, a PRP injection will be much more effective than corticosteroid injection.
One injection turns the inflammation off while the other turns the healing on. Each has its place, just make sure you explain all of your running goals with your sports medicine doctor when considering either of these injections for your aching Achilles tendon.
You can learn more about what happens before your Achilles PRP injection by clicking here and what happens after your Achilles PRP injection by clicking here.
Dr. Christopher Segler is a 6-time Ironman Finisher and an award winning foot and ankle surgeon. He even does house calls for busy runners and triathletes in San Francisco, Marin and the East Bay. If you have a question about foot pain related to running, you can call him directly at 415-308-0833. For more information on Achilles running injuries, visit www.anklecenter.com.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Today I got a question from a runner in San Francisco. She says...
"I wanted to get in touch about another issue (!) I'm having with my foot. Honestly, always thought it'd be knees that went...not my feet! Basically here is what happened:
*had been running again, but not heavy mileage...like 3-miles a few times a week along with perhaps some slower jogs (1 - 2 miles).
*but, then I participated in a TRX class where we did TONS of plyo stuff. squat jumps, etc. the next day, I noticed this pain.
*the pain is on the same foot as my tendonitis was. not sure if it's relevant. I decided to take a photo to show you where the pain is! hope that's not creepy ;) I did some research online, briefly, and thought maybe it's a bursitis?? I don't know, but the class was 3 weeks ago and I've been icing it, not running and the pain is not decreasing, if anything it's getting worse. I haven't been running, just doing the elliptical at the gym and cycling. Cycling does not exacerbate it at all, thankfully!
Also, do I need to get x-rays and stuff to rule out a stress fracture, etc.?
Anyway, thanks for your time!
MY RUNNING DOC's ANSWER:
Thanks for sending the pic and providing the description of the pain in the ball of your foot!
Based on your story and the location of the pain, it is most likely predislocation syndrome. Predislocation syndrome is capsulitis (inflammation of the joint capsule) in the ball of the foot, most often at the second metatarsal phalangeal joint (the joint at the base of the second toe). The capsulitis is what causes the pain, but the real issue is a strain or even tear in a reinforcing structure of the joint capsule called the plantar plate.
I actually see this all the time in active people who spending a lot of time on eliptical trainers. At the back stroke of the eliptical trainer, your heel comes up and the toes bend way up stressing the plantar plate. The plantar plate is a small ligament that reinforces the bottom of the metatarsal phalangeal joint capsule (the joint at the base of the toe in the ball of the foot).
To get it to calm down you have to avoid stressing the plantar plate. Avoid anything that causes you to bend the toes up, such as an eliptical trainer, running uphill, etc. You can also tape the toe down to decrease stress on the plantar plate. Ice, contrast baths and compression socks can decrease the inflammation.
This of course all assumes that your pain is caused by predislocation syndrome. The other common possibilities include a Morton's neuroma or a metatarsal stress fracture. It is pretty easy for any sports medicine podiatrist to tell on physical exam.
Given that 1) most stress fractures show nothing on x-ray until it has been at least 6 weeks, and 2) any sports medicine doctor who specializes in running injuries could tell you with relative certainly whether this is predislocation syndrome or not without an x-ray, I think a physician should just do a quick check and get you heading in the right direction.
Thanks for the question!
Dr. Christopher Segler
Doc On The Run
Podiatry House Calls for Runners
San Francisco, Marin, East Bay
If you have a question about foot pain caused by running, you can email a picture (pointing to the painful area) directly to DrSegler@DocOnTheRun. Tell me how it happened and I will post a an explanation so you will know what is most likely ruining you run. Your name will be changed, and you will never be identified by your real name, so as to protect your identity and shield you from any possible accusations of making a preventable marathon training mistake. I will also never, ever share your email address with anyone.