People with debilitating foot pain could be treated with injections of their own belly fat, a study suggests.
Chronic plantar fasciitis — inflammation around the heel and arch of the foot — can leave patients in agony.
But a trial of 14 patients diagnosed with the condition, which can force people to cut back on physically active, has uncovered another potential remedy.
All of the participants given the treatment reported that they were more active after six months, and could play sports again.
Benefits were even greater after a whole year, according to academics at Pittsburgh University.
Fat in the lower abdomen and thighs is known to be rich in stem cells — the human body's raw material for repairing itself.
Stem cells can mimic any other cell in the body, such as blood or muscle cells, and are used to treat a range of conditions — from worn-out knees to damaged hearts.
As part of the latest study, researchers injected patients' stomach fat back into the balls of their feet.
Plantar fasciitis is estimated to affect up to one in ten adults in the UK, but is more common in people over the age of 50 and overweight people. Wearing old or poor quality shoes can also increase the risk, experts say.
The treatment is done by injecting fat directly into patient's plantar fascia — the bone connecting heel bone to toes
Graphs show: Chronic plantar fasciitis patients' pain (top, solid line) and sports activities (bottom, solid line) over time in groups given the treatment at the start of the study (left) and those given it six months in (right)
Plantar fasciitis is where you have pain on the bottom of your foot, around your heel and arch.
You can usually ease the pain yourself, but see a GP if the pain does not improve within 2 weeks.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the part of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia).
It's not always clear why this happens.
You may be more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you:Recently started exercising on hard surfaces Exercise with a tight calf or heel Overstretch the sole of your foot during exercise Recently started doing a lot more walking, running or standing up Wear shoes with poor cushioning or support Are very overweight
It's more likely to be plantar fasciitis if:The pain is much worse when you start walking after sleeping or resting The pain feels better during exercise, but returns after resting It's difficult to raise your toes off the floor
The condition — which can feel 'like a nail going right through their heel' —is caused by straining parts of the foot connecting the heel bone to toes, and is more likely in people who exercise on hard surfaces, with tight calves or heels, or or who recently started up exercise.
Most people plagued by the pains — which strike between the heel and arch of the foot — are able to treat themselves by stretching and resting their feet.
Surgery is a last resort for those suffering from the chronic version of the condition and can lead to painful scarring as well as destabilising of the foot.
Researchers say the fat-injecting treatment could help avoid this — but further trials are needed to reaffirm their findings.
The study, published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, studied patients from 2016 to 2020.