It does! It does I tell you! Acupuncture treats plantar fasciitis, and I’m gonna tell you all about Jimmy’s success story to boot (sorry). But first, lets talk a little bit about what this pesky ailment actually is.
Plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes on the under side of the foot, and supports the arch. It is tension bearing, and acts like a shock absorber and a sort of spring and when you push off during running or walking. The inflammation of plantar fascia is called plantar fasciitis. It can be a nagging problem that comes and goes for years, and can last many months at a time. Acupuncture is a very effective way to treat it, and avoid prolonged chronic pain.
The signature symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp pain at the heel that is present when you first get up in the morning, or first stand after prolonged sitting.
This pain is present for the first 10-20 minutes or so of walking around, and then it gets better. Usually, while you are active and on your feet, you don’t feel the pain. Once it progresses, you may feel pain radiating up into your arch.
Repetitive strain to the plantar fascia that creates microtears in the tissue and creates inflammation causes plantar fasciitis. This can have many sources:
So let’s get back to Johnny. Johnny came in complaining of intense pain in his heel when he wakes up, and after working a full shift as a professional chef. He’s had plantar fasciitis on and off in both feet since he was a teenager, and at present it was mostly in his left foot, along with some calf tightness.
He is an avid exerciser, and running was one of his favorite activities. He hadn’t been able to run at all for the past six months because the pain was too intense after.
When he would wake up, or after a 6 hour work shift, he could make his pain go from an 8-9/10 to a 5/10 by stretching out his foot and calf for about 15 minutes.
After ruling out any other type of ankle and foot injury, like ligamentous laxity, bone spurs, arthritis, nerve pain, we did three different types of treatment for his plantar fasciitis.
We started johnny’s treatment by doing cupping on his calf and achilles to loosen up this tight and knotted up soft tissue. I also had him move his foot in flexion and extension with the cups on to further encourage the breaking apart of tight tissues.
I next found the trigger points in his calves and his Achilles tendon and used acupuncture needles to deactivate them. This is probably the least comfortable portion of the treatment, and the deactivation of trigger points also means a residual soreness after the treatment that resolves in a day or two.
After first, cupping and second, dry needling, the last step was inserting acupuncture needles on either side of the ankle, pointing towards the heel. I attached the electro-stimulation machine to the acupuncture needles, and ran a current through the area. This is the part of the treatment that is used to increase the stimulation to the needles, for more blood flow to promote tissue healing. It also immediately works on the brain to stimulate neurotransmitters that decrease pain.
At Johnny’s 7th visit, we added gua sha to the treatment, which is a skin scrapping that addresses the gravely tissue underneath. We also did direct acupuncture on the attachment of the plantar fascia at the heel. This is a really sensitive area to needle, and if the pain had gone away completely already, I wouldn’t have done this direct needling. But this had been an issue for over 20 years, it needed the direct work.
Johnny’s progression was steady and consistent during his treatments. He came once a week, without skipping, and also complied with the home regimens. Our goal was to stop the pain in the morning and after work, and return to running on a regular basis.
This is one of those ailments that responds so well to acupuncture, it seems nuts to not try it.
It’s the peak of summer, and our bodies are naturally flourishing thanks to the extra yang the sun is supplying. Now is also the best time for us to prevent disease that comes up in the Fall and Winter. We do this by harmonizing health with Summer.
According to Classical Asian medical theory, we build up yang (physiological fire) from our food and environment during the summer, the most yang season. Our insides are then warm enough to supply our immune systems in the colder months to come. How is that done? Well, eating all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are plentiful right now. Get all the bright colors in your diet. And get out into the sun! Spend some time outside each day, preferably with no clothes on! I don’t know how you are going to manage that, I’m just saying do it.
It’s also a time to eat mildly spicy foods and drink warm beverages. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually a means of harmonizing with the environment. Ever wonder why people living in the hottest climates eat the spiciest foods? In West Africa they eat habanero peppers like we eat high fructose corn syrup in the States. It’s 90 degrees at the Winter Solstice. In the Szechuan region of China, the amount of pepper in the food will melt your tongue. Why?? Well, the energetics of fire is up and out, just as the energetics of the Spicy flavor is up and out. It also functions to mildly disperse excessive heat from the outer layers of our system. This is how to harmonize with the season.
It’s a great time to get an acu-moxa treatment, to put some yang into the system, especially if you tend to have a colder constitution. Moxa is dried mugwort that is burned over an acupuncture point to warm the system. Even if you feel like you are always hot, that’s often a sign that your yang is weak. It is isn’t rooted below your umbilicus, in your lower dantian. This makes your extremities feel hot while your center is cold.
I’ve also made an after meal herbal beverage that is for sale at the clinic. It has mildly warming and spicy herbs, like cardamom, ginger, and licorice, along with some fermented herbs. Its great in the summer to aid digestion by opening the stomach, and will also helps to decrease bloating.
In my office, “how does acupuncture work” is a very common question. Often new patients have no idea what to expect, and there is a bit of a magical aura around acupuncture. Especially when I put a needle in the ankle, and immediately the opposite wrist feels better. But it isn’t magic, it’s medicine, and there are 5 prevailing theories that the modern scientific community has come up with to explain acupuncture:
Acupuncture increases levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels, which improves immune function.
Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters found in the brain with morphine-like properties.
Acupuncture stimulates specific neurotransmitters (like serotonin or noradrenaline) . These neurotransmitters regulate the nervous system, allowing us to properly react to external and internal stimuli. This is the regulation of our reactions to things, like becoming overly stressed, or wanting to go to sleep all the time. [Read more…]