Instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization for the management of chronic plantar heel pain a pilot study

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Background: The purpose of this study was to determine feasibility of further investigation of treatment with instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM), using the Graston technique, compared with conservative care for treatment of chronic plantar heel pain (CPHP). Methods: Eleven participants with plantar heel pain lasting 6 weeks to 1 year were randomly assigned to one of two groups, with each group receiving up to eight physical therapy visits. Both groups received the same stretching, exercise, and home program, but the experimental group also received IASTM using the Graston technique. Outcome measures of pain and function were recorded at baseline, after final treatment, and 90 days later. Feasibility of a larger study was determined considering recruitment and retention rates, compliance, successful application of the protocol and estimates of the treatment effect. Results: Both groups demonstrated improvements in current pain (pain at time of survey), pain with the first step in the morning, and function after final treatment and at 90-day follow up. Medium-to-large effect sizes between groups were noted, and sample size estimates demonstrated a need for at least 42 participants to realize a group difference. A larger-scale study was determined to be feasible with modifications including a larger sample size and higher recruitment rate. Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrates that inclusion of IASTM using the Graston technique for CPHP lasting longer than 6 weeks is a feasible intervention warranting further study. Clinically important changes in the IASTM group and moderate-to-large between-group effect sizes suggest that further research is warranted to determine whether these trends are meaningful.

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