Plantar Fasciitis Release Surgery is a Bad Idea

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plantar fasciitis release surgery

Have you ever had Plantar Fasciitis? It’s one of those truly painful things that every inflight airline catalogue has 5 different gadgets to fix. Well it turns out that any one of those gadgets would be better than Plantar Fasciitis Release Surgery, according to the results of a recent study.

Plantar fasciitis is a problem involving the tough supporting structure on the bottom of the foot, the Plantar Fascia, which is a  band of tissue that goes from the base of the toe and attaching at the bottom of the heel. When this area is overloaded, develops micro-tears, or when associated nerves in the back are irritated, it can become painful to walk. One of the hallmarks of Plantar Fasciitis is the sharp pain which is at it’s worst with the first few steps in the morning. Conservative treatment involves physical therapy, rest and ice, stretching the calf muscles and supporting the arch with various braces, orthotics and contraptions.

This study looked at the long term effectiveness of a different course of action, Plantar Fascia Release Surgery. The study was actually set up because a group of doctors from 3 different hospitals in the UK had noticed that they hadn’t seen the supposed 80% success rate for this surgery in their own patients. They studied 24 patients, ages 24-61, more women than men who had tried conservative treatment for an average of 3 years prior to surgery, and followed them for an average of 6 1/2 years after surgery.  Their conclusions were twofold; receiving steroid injections prior to surgery had a very negative effect on the outcome, and, given the prolonged and difficult recovery and the generally poor outcomes of plantar fasciitis release surgery it has questionable value, as most patients would have improved over this time period without the surgery. Not exactly a vote of confidence…

The upshot? No surprises there!  We know steroid injections kill the local stem cells which make it impossible for them to repair the damage. We also know that cutting into an already damaged ligament which hasn’t been able to heal on its own and permanently changing the biomechanics of the foot, doesn’t end well. If conservative treatment doesn’t work, additional studies and certainly our results have shown that PRP can help the problem without the issues of either steroid shots, or surgery. Make sure you start with a good exam, as heel pain can also be caused or made worse by an irritated S1 nerve in the low back.  But in the end, whether your plantar fasciitis resolves with conservative treatment or requires PRP to accomplish healing, either treatment is a better deal no matter how you look at it!

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4 thoughts on “Plantar Fasciitis Release Surgery is a Bad Idea

  1. Scottishdave

    “a group of doctors from 3 different hospitals in the UK had noticed that they hadn’t seen the supposed 80% success rate for this surgery in their own patients”
    What was the success rate for these doctors on other surgeries? Who was evaluating the doctor’s surgeries in the first place?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Scottish Dave,

      That information isn’t included in the study.

  2. Michael Onifer

    I had partial release surgery in both l feet, before that I had custom orthos made then they gave me steroid shots for 2 years.The steroid shots were a short relief from the pain I also did the exercises but the pain was brutal I also have high arches and I was told that this is a good reason that I have plantar fasciitis.back to the point it’s been two years since I have the surgery or both feet no more pain I recovered quickly within a month from the surgery only issue I have are my feet get tired I felt an immediate relief thank God for the partial release surgery like to note I do not wear inserts now I got rid of them and I do not exercise my feet not one bit of plantar pain in either foot..

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Michael,
      Glad to hear it helped. Given that Plantar Fasciitis can be treated without the surgery by actually addressing what’s causing the issue, best to try that first. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/5-ways-to-treat-plantar-fasciitis-that-your-doctor-never-told-you-about/

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