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Could Plantar Fasciitis Foot Pain Be Treated with Fat?

PLANTAR fasciitis is the most common cause of foot pain, occurring in 80% of individuals. The condition is caused by inflammation to the connective tissue, named plantar fascia, located on the side of the foot. Plantar fasciitis largely affects females, people with obesity, and elderly people. Treatment currently includes steroid injections or surgery; neither of these have desirable side effects, or offer a long-term solution.

A recent small study has revealed a potential alternative that could be safer and just as effective: injecting fat into the foot. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, injected fat from the stomach or other parts of the body to the participant’s sole of the foot.

The methods included using a blunt needle to pierce the fascia, and injecting a total of 3 ml of fat into the foot of most participants. Use of the blunt needle results in a minor injury, which promotes wound healing. Additionally, the fat that is injected has growth factors which help encourage healing of the foot.

The 12-month study involved 14 individuals who were divided into two groups. Group One was given fat injections at the start of the study, whereas Group Two used night splints and arch supports before getting fat injections 6 months later. Participants were instructed to limit weight-bearing exercise, use night splints, and wear supportive shoes.

Results showed that both groups had positive results and reported less pain following treatment. Fascinatingly, Group One reported great pain reduction compared to Group Two. Additionally, researchers found that the thickness of the plantar fascia decreased in both groups and concluded the fat injections reduced heel pain and improved quality of life.

This novel study shows that fat injections could one day be used to treat foot pain in plantar fasciitis. However, it is important to note the limitations of the study, such as the small sample size, and 93% of participants being female. Nonetheless, these results are promising, and the team are optimistic the fat injections could treat plantar fasciitis in a few years. Future work involves conducting large sample studies in this area, which the team are planning to conduct to reinforce their findings.