Acupuncture for heel spurs and plantar fasciitis
What are heel spurs and plantar fasciitis
Heel spur and plantar fasciitis are two related foot conditions that can cause pain and discomfort, primarily in the heel area. While they are connected, they are distinct conditions with different causes.
- Heel Spur: A heel spur is a bony growth (calcium deposit) that forms on the underside of the heel bone. This growth can extend forward by several millimeters and may cause pain as it digs into the soft tissues surrounding the heel. Heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis but can also occur independently. They can develop due to factors such as repetitive stress on the heel, excessive walking or running, improper footwear, obesity, or abnormal foot structure.
- Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain resulting from inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. This tissue supports the arch of the foot and absorbs shock during walking or running. When the plantar fascia becomes overstressed or inflamed, it can cause pain, especially in the heel area.
The main cause of plantar fasciitis is excessive strain on the plantar fascia, which can result from factors such as excessive walking or running, improper footwear, tight calf muscles, obesity, or having flat feet or high arches.
It is important to note that while heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are related and can occur together, they are distinct conditions. Heel spurs can form due to the chronic stress associated with plantar fasciitis, but not all cases of plantar fasciitis involve heel spurs, and not all heel spurs cause pain or discomfort.
Conventional treatment options
Treatment options for heel spurs and plantar fasciitis often overlap since they are related conditions. The primary goal of conventional treatment is to alleviate pain and inflammation while addressing the underlying causes. Here are some common treatment options:
- Rest: Reduce or avoid activities that exacerbate the pain, such as prolonged standing, walking, or running. This will give the affected tissues a chance to heal.
- Ice: Apply ice to the painful area for 15-20 minutes, several times a day, to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Anti-inflammatory medications: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Stretching exercises: Stretching the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles can help alleviate pain and tension in the affected area. These exercises can also improve flexibility and prevent future injuries.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist can recommend a personalized program of exercises and stretches to strengthen the foot and leg muscles, improve flexibility, and promote healing.
- Orthotics: Custom or over-the-counter shoe inserts can provide arch support and help distribute pressure more evenly across the foot, reducing strain on the plantar fascia and alleviating pain associated with heel spurs.
- Supportive footwear: Wearing shoes with proper arch support, cushioning, and a slightly raised heel can help reduce stress on the plantar fascia and alleviate pain.
- Night splints: Wearing a night splint can help gently stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon overnight, reducing morning pain and stiffness.
- Weight loss: If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the stress on the plantar fascia and alleviate pain associated with heel spurs and plantar fasciitis.
- Corticosteroid injections: In some cases, a healthcare professional may recommend a corticosteroid injection to help reduce inflammation and pain. However, this treatment should be used sparingly, as repeated injections can weaken the plantar fascia and potentially cause rupture.
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT): This non-invasive treatment uses high-energy shock waves to stimulate healing in the affected tissues. ESWT is typically reserved for cases of chronic plantar fasciitis that have not responded to more conservative treatments.
- Surgery: In rare cases where conservative treatments have not been effective, surgery may be considered. Surgical options include plantar fascia release or removal of the heel spur. However, surgery carries risks and should be considered a last resort.
Role of Acupuncture
Acupuncture can be a great treatment option for heel spur and plantar fasciitis due to its holistic approach and various benefits. Here are some reasons why acupuncture can be effective for these conditions:
- Pain relief: Acupuncture can help alleviate pain by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. This can provide relief from the discomfort associated with heel spurs and plantar fasciitis.
- Reduced inflammation: Acupuncture has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help reduce the inflammation in the plantar fascia, providing relief from pain and promoting healing.
- Improved circulation: Acupuncture can help improve blood circulation in the affected area, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to promote healing and reduce pain.
- Muscle relaxation: Acupuncture can help relax the muscles surrounding the affected area, which can reduce tension on the plantar fascia and alleviate pain associated with heel spurs.
- Addressing underlying imbalances: Acupuncture is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which seeks to address the root cause of health problems by balancing the body’s energy (qi). By targeting specific acupuncture points related to the foot and lower leg, an acupuncturist can help correct underlying imbalances contributing to heel spur and plantar fasciitis pain.
- Complementary therapy: Acupuncture can be used alongside conventional treatments for heel spur and plantar fasciitis, potentially enhancing their effectiveness and providing additional benefits.
- Fewer side effects: Compared to some conventional treatments, such as medications or corticosteroid injections, acupuncture has relatively fewer side effects. This makes it an attractive option for individuals who cannot tolerate or prefer to avoid the side effects associated with certain medications.
Common acupuncture points
For heel spur and plantar fasciitis, a qualified acupuncturist may use a combination of local and distal acupuncture points to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Some common acupuncture points for treating these conditions include:
- Kidney 3 (K3, Taixi): Located on the inner side of the ankle, between the Achilles tendon and the medial malleolus (inner ankle bone). This point is often used for various foot and ankle problems, including heel pain.
- Bladder 60 (BL60, Kunlun): Located on the outer side of the ankle, between the Achilles tendon and the lateral malleolus (outer ankle bone). This point is commonly used to alleviate pain and tension in the heel and ankle.
- Spleen 6 (SP6, Sanyinjiao): Located on the inner side of the lower leg, approximately three finger widths above the medial malleolus (inner ankle bone). This point can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation in the foot and lower leg.
- Liver 3 (LV3, Taichong): Located on the top of the foot, between the first and second toes. This point can help regulate the flow of qi and blood in the lower extremities, which can be beneficial for heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
- Gallbladder 34 (GB34, Yanglingquan): Located on the outer side of the lower leg, in the depression anterior to the fibular head. This point is often used for issues related to the tendons and muscles of the lower leg and foot.
- Stomach 36 (ST36, Zusanli): Located on the outer side of the lower leg, about one finger width lateral to the anterior border of the tibia, and four finger widths below the knee. This point can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation in the lower extremities.
- Stomach 44 (ST44, Neiting): Located on the top of the foot, between the second and third toes. This point is often used to reduce pain and inflammation in the foot.
- Ashi points: In addition to the traditional acupuncture points, an acupuncturist may also use “Ashi points,” which are tender or painful points found in the local area of the heel and arch of the foot.
Acupuncture Duration and Frequency
The duration of acupuncture treatment needed to alleviate heel spur and plantar fasciitis symptoms can vary greatly depending on the individual’s specific condition, severity, and underlying factors. Some people may experience significant relief after just a few sessions, while others may require a more extended course of treatment to achieve lasting results.
In general, it is common for acupuncture practitioners to recommend a series of treatments to address chronic conditions like heel spur and plantar fasciitis. An initial course of treatment may consist of 6 to 12 sessions, typically scheduled once or twice a week. After this initial course, the practitioner may reevaluate the patient’s progress and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.
For some individuals, ongoing maintenance treatments every few weeks or months may be necessary to manage symptoms and prevent recurrence. It is also essential to address any underlying factors contributing to heel spur and plantar fasciitis, such as poor footwear, muscle imbalances, or excessive strain on the feet, to achieve long-term relief.
It’s important to remember that individual responses to acupuncture can vary, and some people may require more or fewer sessions to achieve their desired results. It’s crucial to work closely with a qualified acupuncturist who can monitor your progress, adjust your treatment plan as needed, and provide guidance on complementary therapies or lifestyle changes that may help improve your condition.
At Huatuo Clinic, we understand that each patient’s experience with heel spur and plantar fasciitis can be unique. Therefore, we approach treatment by tailoring acupuncture points to the individual’s specific symptoms and underlying imbalances. Our qualified and experienced acupuncturists will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that targets the root cause of your pain and promotes optimal healing. We invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our pain specialists to discuss the most appropriate course of treatment for your specific situation.