Acupuncture Can Be Helpful For Heel Pain

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Plantar fasciitis is a common condition for which definitive treatment guidelines vary depending on what triggered the condition. Acupuncture offers pain relief and in some studies has shown to provide long-term relief. While 80 percent of heel pain will resolve without treat, the remaining 20 percent can become chronic as cause issues in the knee, hip and low back. 

Overall, studies report significant benefits with acupuncture for patients. One associated acupuncture with significant improvement in pain and function when combined with standard treatment protocols. The researchers concluded there was enough evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of plantar heel pain.

While acupuncture can be of benefit, addressing the underlying cause is essential. Many sufferers have chronically tight calf muscles. Daily stretching can reduce symptoms as well as prevent recurrence. Using a golf ball to roll the bottom of the feet can help break up scar tissue and adhesions related to foot dysfunction. Icing the foot for 15 minutes using a frozen water bottle can be beneficial as well.

Using custom orthotics can assist in supporting arches that have fallen. Like the stretched out waistband of an old pair of underwear, once the ligaments of the foot are stretched, they will never regain their elasticity and require continued support.

To mend heel pain and keep it at bay, follow these simple recommendations:

  • Stretch your calves daily
  • Wear supportive shoes
  • Avoid walking around in bare feet
  • Wear a night splint
  • Visit a doctor that can evaluate your need for orthotic support

If you continue to suffer from symptoms, try acupuncture before you resort to surgery.

See my video on Plantar Fascitis if you’d like to learn more:

Plantar Fasciitis Resolved in a Professional Baseball Using Acupuncture

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As a lifelong baseball fan, I have had the privilege to provide chiropractic care for the Kansas City Royals during Spring Training since 2005. Working along side one of the top medical staffs in all of professional sports has been an amazing experience. One of the things I have appreciated most is their openness to embrace what have been considered “non-traditional” therapies such as chiropractic.

Around the year 2009, I was in the training room while a player was being treated for plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes (plantar fascia).

Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning. As you get up and move more, the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or after rising from sitting.

That day, one of the trainers asked me if there was anything from a chiropractic standpoint that may be of benefit for this players heel pain. I explained that addressing his hip alignment was essential from a chiropractic perspective, but I also mentioned acupuncture. Proving my previous point of willingness to look for complimentary therapies, he asked me to bring in my needles next visit.

When I asked the player how long he had been suffering, he noted that his pain began in September of the prior year while rounding second base. Remember, Spring Training begins in February, so he had been dealing with this problem for over four months! Although a bit anxious, he welcomed the opportunity to find some relief. A few days later I returned to the training room. To my excitement (and his amazement) he noted improvement. Using a combination of acupuncture and physical therapy, he was ready to get back on the field within a couple weeks.

There was an interesting study I found in The British Medical Journal that evaluated the use of acupuncture in patients who had heel pain for over one year, attempted physical therapy, AND utilized orthotic supports without relief. Their finding? “Our study demonstrates that acupuncture is effective in treating patients with chronic heel pain due to plantar fasciitis and that the addition of trigger point acupuncture in poor or non-responders may be useful.” Boom!

The good news, you do not need to be a professional athlete in order to experience the benefits of acupuncture for plantar fasciitis. For example, Terry has been a longtime patient who has utilized both chiropractic and acupuncture. After suffering with chronic heel pain and finding no relief with traditional therapies, he has found relief with acupuncture.

Then there is Lucy, a teenage volleyball player who had suffered from plantar fasciitis without resolution for almost six months. Last year, I had the opportunity to treat Lucy’s mother, Lee, for knee pain using both chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture. Frustrated with Lucy’s continued pain, Lee decided to bring Lucy in for an evaluation. To Lucy’s initial dread, I recommend acupuncture. She was a trouper and was actually surprised how painless it was. After a few treatments I asked Lucy how she was doing. Her response (with a smile), ” I was able to practice volleyball pain free. I didn’t even think about my feet.” This past weekend was a true test for Lucy…six games. Again with a smile she told me she was able to play every game without pain!

Whether you are a professional athlete, a mature adult, or an active adolescent, one thing is for sure―acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment option for plantar fasciitis.  If you or someone you know suffers from plantar fasciitis or heel pain and have tried traditional therapy, it’s time to try something new (which is actually been around for thousands of years). My recommendation is to find a certified sports physician that either practices acupuncture or can refer you to a professional familiar with orthopedic conditions. I think Lucy would agree!