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.
This is the plantar fascia.
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.
What does plantar fasciitis feel like ?
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.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Repetitive strain to the plantar fascia that creates microtears in the tissue and creates inflammation causes plantar fasciitis. This can have many sources:
- Excessive running or walking
- Improper arch support
- Prolonged standing
- Tight Achilles tendon and calves, in addition to the above
How do you treat plantar fasciitis with acupuncture?
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.
The plantar fasciitis treatment plan
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.
How long did it take to feel better?
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.
- After the first treatment Johnny noticed he was sore for about a day in his calves, but there was less pulling on the bottom of his foot. After his 6 hour work shift the pain was the same in his heel. The next morning after a long shift felt a little better.
- At the 3rd appointment, he reported the pain was 15-20% better after a work shift.
- When he came in after 4 treatments, he said he went for one run for about a half mile. It was painful after, but he could stretch his feet and the pain went away. Waking up, he felt about 25% improvement in his foot.
- At the 6th session Johnny’s foot would be tight after work, and after running a mile, but not painful. Waking up, there was no pain. At this point, Johnny spent about 3-4 minutes multiple times a day stretching his feet and calves. He also did gua sha himself on the bottom of his foot using a Chinese soup spoon.
- After 12 treatments the pain in his foot didn’t affect any of his activities. He spent about 3 minutes a few times a day stretching out, which was essential. The pain in the morning was gone, as well as after work. He was running 3-4 times a week, about 4.5 miles each time.
This is one of those ailments that responds so well to acupuncture, it seems nuts to not try it.