BMJ Group Medical Reference
One good-quality summary of the research (a systematic review), which included almost 900 people, showed that shockwave therapy reduced heel pain by only a small amount.  Shockwave therapy directs strong sound waves at your heel with a special device.
However, a more recent study of 245 people showed good results from shockwave therapy. People who had shockwave therapy had a much bigger reduction in heel pain, compared with people who had a dummy treatment (a placebo). The people in the study all had experienced problems with bad heel pain for some time. So the amount of benefit might vary, depending on how bad your pain is to start with. 
Shockwave therapy does have risks and can be painful if you don't have a local anaesthetic. Eight out of 10 people in one study said it was painful.  The treatment might make you feel numb or produce a hot, burning sensation in your heel and ankle.  Common side effects include swelling or skin reddening around your heel.  Some people have also complained of dizziness, nausea, disturbed sleep, bleeding under the skin, and hair loss.
A local anaesthetic is a painkiller that's used to numb one part of your body. You usually get local anaesthetics as injections.
A placebo is a 'pretend' or dummy treatment that contains no active substances. A placebo is often given to half the people taking part in medical research trials, for comparison with the 'real' treatment. It is made to look and taste identical to the drug treatment being tested, so that people in the studies do not know if they are getting the placebo or the 'real' treatment. Researchers often talk about the 'placebo effect'. This is where patients feel better after having a placebo treatment because they expect to feel better. Tests may indicate that they actually are better. In the same way, people can also get side effects after having a placebo treatment. Drug treatments can also have a 'placebo effect'. This is why, to get a true picture of how well a drug works, it is important to compare it against a placebo treatment.
A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.
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