Heel Pain

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Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia).   Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. If tension and stress on that bowstring become too great, small tears can arise in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed, though in many cases of plantar fasciitis, the cause isn’t clear.

How do you know if you have plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is where you have pain on the sole of your foot, around your heel and arch.   It’s more likely to be plantar fasciitis if:

•the pain is much worse when you start walking after sleeping or resting.  Some people describe the pain as like walking on glass

•the pain feels better during exercise but returns after resting

•it’s difficult to raise your toes off the floor

Common causes of plantar fasciitis

You may be more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you:

•recently started exercising on hard surfaces

•exercise with a tight calf or heel

•overstretch the sole of your foot during exercise

•recently started doing a lot more walking, running or standing up

•wear shoes with poor cushioning or support

•are very overweight

The usual treatment for plantar fasciitis includes painkillers, anti-Inflammatories and steroid injections.  However, their is increasing evidence of the risks involved taking over-the-counter medications.  The risks include cardiovascular complications, gastro-intestinal tract bleeding, kidney toxicity and death.  Studies on acupuncture for plantar fasciitis, on the other hand, have shown few to no adverse effects, as well as being highly effective.

But there are also a number of things you can do yourself.

  • Rest your foot by avoiding standing or walking for long periods
  • Wear shoes with good arch support and cushioned heels.  
  • Try to avoid walking barefoot
  • Purchase insoles and heel pads to put in your shoes to correct any foot pronation.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight 
  • Apply ice to the heel for about 15 minutes
  • Stretch out the plantar fascia by picking up a towel off the floor by scrunching your toes.

Acupuncture can help

From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain occurs when Qi circulation is blocked. It also can be caused by disorders in the internal organs and disturbance of the channels. However. there are many factors that may lead to pain.  

Acupuncture improves plantar heel pain through several pathways. One way is that the insertion of needles causes a local effect on nerve endings, releasing neuropeptides that help eliminate pain. There is also some excellent research showing that a substance called adenosine is released during acupuncture and has a potent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect as well as promoting blood flow to the area.  Other local cells, known as fibroblasts, are stimulated by acupuncture promoting tissue healing in the area.

Researchers have also demonstrated that the body releases its own opioids, the body’s natural ‘pain killer,’ during acupuncture treatment.  Studies that look at changes in brain activity during acupuncture show that following treatment there is less activity in brain regions associated with pain perception and increased activity in areas that regulate our response to pain.

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