Plantar fasciitis is a very common (lifetime incidence ~ 10%) and long-lasting injury with major impact on daily function. Combining corticosteroid injection and physical training (strength training and stretching) was hypothesized to result in a superior effect compared to each treatment separately.
A single blinded randomized controlled superiority trial conducted in 2013–2014 with a 2-year follow-up (end Sept 2016). 123 consecutive patients (20–65 years) referred to two study centers in Denmark: Institute of Sports Medicine, Bispebjerg Hospital, University of Copenhagen and a private rheumatology clinic with symptoms of plantar fasciitis, and ultrasound measured thickness above 4.0 mm were invited. 25 did not fulfill the inclusion criteria (mainly ultrasound criteria) and 8 refused participation. 90 patients were randomized (pulling sealed envelopes) to 3 groups: (1) 3 months strength training and stretching (n = 30), (2) corticosteroid injections with monthly intervals until thickness < 4.0 mm (maximum 3 injections) (n = 31), (3) combination of the two treatments (n = 29). During the 3 months intervention period load reduction was recommended (cushioning shoes and insoles and abstaining from running and jumping). The main outcome was improvement in Pain at function on a 100-mm VAS score and in Foot Function Index (FFI, range 0–230) at 6 months (Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01994759).
All groups improved significantly over time, but the combination of corticosteroid injection and training (strength training and stretching) had a superior effect at all time points. The mean difference between the combined treatment and training was 40 points in FFI (95% confidence interval (CI) 63–17 points, p < 0.001) and 20 mm for VAS function pain (CI 35–5 mm, p < 0.01). The mean difference between the combined treatment and corticosteroid injections only was 29 points in FFI (CI 52–7 points, p < 0.01) and 17 mm for VAS function pain (CI 32–2 mm, p < 0.05). All differences were clinically relevant.
The best treatment for plantar fasciitis is the combination of corticosteroid injections and training (strength training and stretching). This combined treatment is superior both in the short- and in the longterm. Corticosteroid injections combined with controlled training are recommended as first line treatment in patients with plantar fasciitis.
Level of evidence
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The study was funded by the research fund for Danish Practitioner Specialists and Danish Medical Research Council: “Fonden for Faglig udvikling af speciallægepraksis”.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All procedures in this study was in accordance with the Helsinki declaration and approved by the local ethical committee.
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Johannsen, F.E., Herzog, R.B., Malmgaard-Clausen, N.M. et al. Corticosteroid injection is the best treatment in plantar fasciitis if combined with controlled training. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 27, 5–12 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-018-5234-6
- Plantar fasciitis
- Exercise therapy
- Strength training
- Corticosteroid injection