Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain

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Plantar Fasciitis, (PF) is a painful inflammatory process of the plantar fascia, which is the connective tissue on the sole of the foot beginning at the base of the heel and spreading across the foot toward the toes. Although there are exceptions, it most commonly affects two distinct populations: athletes who use their feet a lot and heavier people whose feet bear the brunt of the excessive weight. Those who are suffering with PF, and there are as many as 2 million Americans who go through this each year, experience pain in all or part of this region. The pain is often at its worst as they get out of bed in the morning and can often be exacerbated by flexing the muscles in the toes to bring the toes closer to the shin (referred to as ‘dorsiflexion’).

PF can trigger many other problems including heel spurs caused by the chronic inflammation in the region causing the calcification, as well as knee and back pain caused by gait changes associated with the pain from the feet. Where these other conditions exist they can be treated simultaneously.

Acupuncture is very effective in remedying this problem and can be performed as a stand alone treatment or in conjunction with other modalities such as stretching, custom orthotics and physical therapy. It tends to perform much better, long term, and with fewer side effects than steroid injections.

Research/Articles

A British study from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry concludes that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of plantar heel pain. The researchers note that acupuncture treatment clinical outcomes are comparable to the use of medications, night splints and stretching as evidenced in multiple studies. The researchers also note that results demonstrate that acupuncture has more significant improvements in both pain relief and the restoration of function than a standard regime of care that includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Based on these findings, the researchers formally recommend acupuncture for the treatment of plantar heel pain.

A Greek study entitled, Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis in Recreational Athletes: Two Different Therapeutic Protocols,  found that:

Acupuncture should be considered as a major therapeutic instrument for the decrease of heel pain in plantar fasciitis (PF) . . . Scores for pain and mobility/function were significantly smaller [indicating improvement] in the acupuncture group after two months of treatment.

A British study, from the Orthopedics Department of a Bedford hospital, on the effects of acupuncture for non-responsive plantar fasciitis concluded that,

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.

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