Alison’s story – how radiotherapy alleviated plantar fasciitis pain
Alison McAllister, 44, was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis at age 30.
The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that stretches along the underside of the foot, under the skin, from your heel to the middle of the foot. This ligament normally acts as shock-absorber and supports the arch of your foot, but when it becomes overloaded or over-used, the plantar fascia can tear and start to degenerate. This results in pain in the heel, known as plantar fasciitis.
Alison initially thought the pain was due to gout. However, following a visit to her GP, and describing the sharp pain when her foot first hit the floor in the morning, or when standing after sitting for a length of time, a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis was given.
Alison describes the pain as “like I had the fat sucked out the heel of my foot and was walking on pure bone. Like walking on needles on my heel, it was incredibly painful”. Her GP explained that whilst the condition may be straight forward to recognise, it can be tricky to treat. For some people the symptoms naturally fade, however unfortunately for Alison, it remained.
Over the next 12 years, Alison tried a wide variety of therapeutics in a hope to alleviate her discomfort, these included wearing special trainers, putting insoles in her shoes, stretching exercises and physiotherapy; steroid injections and ultrasound. Some treatments helped to alleviate the pain for a while, but it would eventually always return.
Allison said “Steroid injections in my heel were initially very effective, however the pain returned within six months. When I returned and had a further injection, I could feel a very different sensation to the first time. I was in a lot of pain, and was later informed that the steroid injection had hit a blood vessel and as a result was unsuccessful and I wouldn’t be able to have any further injections”.
The condition continued to have a big impact on Alison’s life and she thought that she had exhausted all treatment options, she said “I had become so desperate for help, I was willing to do anything to give me a better quality of life. It was totally life controlling”.
In winter 2020, Allison was informed by a family member that radiotherapy may be a possible option to treat plantar fasciitis, “I was really surprised to find that radiotherapy could be used to treat it. Despite working within healthcare as a medical secretary for nearly 16 years, I wasn’t aware of radiotherapy being used in this way”.
“I was really surprised to find that radiotherapy could be used to treat it. Despite working within healthcare as a medical secretary for nearly 16 years, I wasn’t aware of radiotherapy being used in this way”.
Alison booked an appointment to see Dr Shaffer at the GenesisCare centre in Nottingham, and following an ultrasound scan to confirm her diagnosis, she underwent her first round of radiotherapy in December 2020.
The treatment consisted of two radiotherapy sessions a week for three weeks. Dr Shaffer informed Alison that one round of treatment is likely to show some improvement, however as she has had plantar fasciitis for over 12 years, it would likely need two rounds to help alleviate the majority of the pain. Alison completed her final round in April 2021.
Alison said “The treatment at GenesisCare was wonderful, all the staff were really welcoming and I never had to wait during my appointments. I have had no side effects from radiotherapy, it was easy, I just had to lie back for a few minutes and had no idea that anything was happening”.
Despite suffering with the condition for so many years, Alison feels that the treatment has reduced the pain by 80-90%. She said “From not being able to go for walks prior to radiotherapy, I have now seen a huge improvement, and can comfortably walk up to an hour”.
“From not being able to go for walks prior to radiotherapy, I have now seen a huge improvement, and can comfortably walk up to an hour”.
Alison continued “Since then, I have unfortunately sprained my ankle, but even so, I would say that I have never been this good in regards to my plantar fasciitis in the 12 years I have had it”.
Alison’s advice to anyone suffering from plantar fasciitis is not to wait, get treatment as soon as you can so you can prevent additional damage and get the best outcome.