Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel or arch pain affecting about 10% of people at some point in their life.
What is the “plantar fascia?”
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is still a bit of a medical puzzle.
It is a common and persistent overuse injury and is most common in runners, walkers, people who spend a lot of time on their feet (cashiers, postal workers.)
It’s a “sort of” tendinitis, an inflammatory thickening and/or degeneration of the plantar fascia.
It causes mainly heel pain and/or foot arch pain, typically stabbing in nature. It is worse for pressure or when standing.
Pain first thing in the morning is a common feature and it is a good idea to have some slippers by the bed and put these on as you get out of bed.
Most people will recover with rest, an arch support or well supported shoes and stretching.
But for some, it can be really really stubborn. Severe chronic cases can stop you in your tracks and drag on for years.
The familiar terms “tendinitis” and “inflammation” of the “fascia” can be a bit misleading because it is uncertain whether this is actually a true description of what is happening. Sometimes there is no inflammation to be found!
Other possible causes are nerve entrapment, stress fractures, fatigue of the plantar fascia but for now we’ll not go to far into medical definitions and we’ll consider it as tendinitis or tendinopathy.
We all like a diagnosis but really it’s more important to find a treatment that works in my opinion.
How does acupuncture for plantar fasciitis work?
I see a fair few people with plantar fasciitis, some have had it for months or years. It has virtually always responded well to just a few regular sessions of acupuncture, often incorporating electroacupuncuture and/or moxa(heat) in the treatments.
My mum and my husband have both suffered with it in the past, unfortunately before I’d completed my acupuncture training! I do a lot of sport, particularly running, but luckily I’ve never had this injury (although I’ve had more than my fair share of others!)
A recent systematic review evaluating all clinical trials on acupuncture for plantar fasciitis concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for the condition and that the evidence is comparable to other commonly-used interventions, such as stretching, night splints and dexamethasone.
Acupuncture improves plantar heel pain through several pathways. One way is that the insertion of needles causes a local effect on nerve endings, releasing neuropeptides that help eliminate pain.
Researchers have also demonstrated that the body releases its own opioids, the body’s natural ‘pain killer,’ during acupuncture treatment. That makes sense, right?
However, some of the points we use are not in the feet at all and these work on principles based in Traditional Chinese Medicine. One of these points, for example is on the inside of the wrist because the wrist can be used to mirror the ankle/heel.
Are you thinking of trying acupuncture for your plantar fasciitis?
I recommend that you use an acupuncturist that is registered with The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) because members of the BAcC are guaranteed to have completed full training to degree level and will be covered by most private health insurers.