Wilma Rosario loves to salsa but relentless heel pain has been keeping her from hitting the dance floor.
"It feels like somebody's sticking with needles in my heels sometimes," Rosario says.
She's tried everything from Motrin to steroid injections to treat it. But so far she hasn't gotten the relief she's been looking for.
So her physician, podiatric surgeon Dr. Suzanne Levine is using a new approach -- infrared light therapy. Here's the kicker: The foot doctor's new tool is usually something you'll find in the dermatologist's or plastic surgeon's office.
"This is a machine that was originally designated for skin tightening at different amounts of energy," Levine says. "We noticed one other patient, this was about a year-and-a-half ago, felt better after she had this treatment. She had jaw problems. My colleague was using this infrared to tighten her skin and she said 'I felt so much better.' And just with that one, clear, significant pain improvement in addition to skin tightening, we thought at the same time, 'Why not try this and help in healing any type of inflammatory condition?'"
In a study just published in the journal of Practical Pain Management, Levine tracked the treatment in a small group of 40 adult patients over a year.
With one to 10 treatments administered at low doses, all but one patient experiencing acute or chronic foot, ankle and knee trouble reported a significant drop in pain ranging from 40 percent to being totally pain-free.
Some patients were also treated for hand and wrist pain.
Levine finds those results so promising that she's already using the light therapy in more patients like Rosario.
Levine plans to continue this treatment for other patients that benefit. The hope is that companies that make the infrared machines for cosmetic use might also seek FDA approval for pain management as well.