Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis

by Mark Whalen

Today we are going to discuss Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis.  This is the most common foot condition we get calls for in the acupuncture clinic.  Let's take a look at the bottom of the foot and discuss how acupuncture can help with plantar fasciitis and an associated condition, heel spurs.

plantar fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs along your foot from your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of this connective tissue (itis=inflammation).  The inflammation typically occurs where the fascia connects to the heel bone, along what is called the aponeurosis.

It can be extremely painful and limiting to a person’s activity levels. Plantar fasciitis can make it difficult to run, exercise vigorously, or even walk long distances.

Typical symptoms include severe pain when first getting up in the morning—the first step can be excruciating. The pain is often described as stabbing in nature.  As the patient moves around more, the fascia loosens up and the pain reduces. Pain can come shooting back if standing for an extended period of time, or getting up after being seated for a while.

Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are caused by calcium deposits in the heels. The calcium deposits are formed by repeated tearing of the membrane that covers the heel bone. This process occurs over several months.  Interestingly,  the pain doesn’t actually come from the spur, but from the inflammation of the soft tissue.  Heel spurs are common in patients with plantar fasciitis. Some heel spurs may not cause any pain.

Causes

The causes for Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs are similar. Exercises that require a lot of running and jumping may contribute. Runners are prone to both due the repeated pounding their feet take.

Other factors include the foot’s anatomical structure (flat feet, high arch etc), a patient’s age, weight and occupation. The older and heavier you are, the more likely you are to develop these conditions.   If your job requires you to stand for long periods of the day, you are more at risk. Poor footwear is also a culprit. Shoes need to have proper arch support and should not compress the toes together.

Treatment Options

Standard treatment involves the usual suspects. Stretching of the plantar fascia, anti-inflammatory medications, orthotic shoe inserts, physical therapy, and braces for sleeping at night may be given. For severe conditions, cortisone injections or surgery may be necessary.

When stretching at home, don’t neglect targeted stretching of the Achilles tendon and calf on the affected leg. Trigger points-tight muscle bands- in the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calf can contribute to plantar fasciitis pain. The trigger points in these muscles refer pain to the heel area.

A good  exercise to do at home is to roll over a hard surface—it could be a foam roller, a golf ball, or even a baking pin.  This will be painful at first, but the more it's done, the easier it gets.

If you’re doing (or have done) these treatments and are still in pain, it’s time for acupuncture. Actually, the time for acupuncture is when the injury first occurs- the quicker we get treatment in, the quicker it resolves.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin, pre-sterilized needles into the skin to elicit a healing reaction in the body. Don’t be alarmed- I don’t have to, and usually don’t, put the needles directly into the heel or sole of your foot. I typically find distal points, points away from the pain, to use and treat your condition.

Acupuncture’s effect on pain conditions can be summed up in few ways. Acupuncture helps to improve blood flow to an injured area. Improved blood flow brings better healing through nutrients/oxygen and cleaning out of the debris from an injury. A secondary result of better circulation is to reduce the in inflammation that is causing the pain. Acupuncture also reduces pain through a complex series of chemical signaling.

Within the realm of Chinese Medicine, there are other treatment options to help with the pain as well.    We can use massage techniques such as cupping, tui na, or gua sha to help promote healing.  These techniques would have a similar feel to the rolling exercise you could do at home.

There are many chinese herbs that would help promote healing as well.  Many of the common herbs for this condition are known to improve blood flow, reduce pain and promote healing of connective tissues.

Other foot issues

In addition to treatment of Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs, Acupuncture can also help speed up the healing associated with sprains and strains of the ankle, Achilles tendon injuries and Morton’s Neuroma.

Happy Foot  As our main method of conveyance, it's important to keep your feet happy.  If you're struggling with foot pain, give us a call and find out if acupuncture can help you.

 

-Mark

This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any condition. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.

Mark Whalen is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified Herbalist and the founder of Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness in Reading, MA.

Mark Whalen – who has written posts on Acupuncture Reading MA - Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness.


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Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness
20 Pondmeadow Dr #107, Reading, MA 01867
Phone: (781) 944-3000
 

 

Serving Reading, North Reading, Wakefield, Burlington and the surrounding Middlesex County, MA areas.

Zip Codes: 01730, 01810, 01867, 01880, 01821, 01803, 01864, 01876,
01887, 01915, 01923, 01940, 01949, 01960
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