By Christina Morris, L.Ac.
Summer is on its way, but is a painful heel preventing you from enjoying this time of the year to its fullest? Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis, means inflammation of the plantar fascia. Plantar is an anatomical term that means the bottom of the foot and the fascia refers to a fibrous tissue that covers, supports and separates the muscles. In this case the fascia runs from the heel to the ball of the foot, supporting the arch. If the fascia becomes stressed, small tears can form in the tissue creating pain and inflammation. When this tissue becomes tense it pulls away from its attachment site, the heel bone (calcaneus). In time, spurs or boney protrusions can develop on the heel where the fascia pulls on the bone. Spurs can be painful but having heel pain is not a sure sign of having a heel spur. If you are experiencing heel or foot pain, an appointment with a healthcare professional is advised.
Common symptoms often associated with plantar fasciitis include, heel pain in the mornings with the first few steps, pain with prolonged standing or at the end of the day, and pain at the beginning of an activity that lessens as the foot is used and stretched. Pain from plantar fasciitis is often located in the middle of the heel but may also be a stabbing or an achy pain along the arch.
Studies indicate that acupuncture treatments can decrease and often eliminate pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Acupuncture can reduce inflammation and pain as well as increase blood flow to the foot and heel. Acupuncture needles are placed in very specific points located on the affected foot, ankle, and leg. Electric stimulation of the needles as well as distal points located on the hands can also be used in the treatment of heel pain. Acupuncture treatments for this condition can last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. The frequency and number of treatments vary from person to person.
Other therapies used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis include heat, ice, rest, night splints, massage, heel pads, weight loss, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e. aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.), ultra sound, stretching and strengthening exercises, rest, arch support, and as a last resort, surgery. Cortisone injections may also be used, but must be used sparingly, if at all. This medication is thought to contribute to the degeneration of the fat pad on the heel. Several therapies are often combined for best results. Stretching and strengthening exercises are very important and are easy to do at home. Proper shoe support is also important in preventing and aiding in the treatment of plantar fasciitis. Support to the arch can greatly reduce tension exerted on the plantar fascia.
There are many treatment options available for plantar fasciitis. Preventative measures can often save you money and time. Take control of your health and listen to your body.