If you’re feeling the pain of Plantar Fasciitis, you want relief now. Some people have had success with acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis, but luckily there are several simple remedies you can try at home first to reduce the stabbing, burning, aching pain that accompanies each step.
Chances are, your pain will respond to these less aggressive treatments and you’ll never even have to worry about acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis or any of the other scarier (and more expensive) options.
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Are You Sure It’s Plantar Fasciitis?
The first thing to do is to become as informed as possible about your condition. If you have pain in the forward bottom part of the heel when you take a step, Plantar Fasciitis is the usual suspect. Most sufferers find this pain to be worst when they take their first steps of the morning. As their foot loosens up (Plantar Fasciitis normally affects one foot), they will experience less pain, but may find it returns later in the day, possibly in different areas, but still affecting the underside of the foot.
This condition is most common in:
- overweight people (particularly women)
- athletes, especially those in running games on hard surfaces
- people whose job involves a lot of standing or walking on hard floors
- people with inactive lifestyles suddenly engaging in stressful physical activities
- mature people, usually over 40 or 50
If you fit any of those profiles, or have recently experienced some facet of one of them (gaining weight suddenly, as with pregnancy; pushing a heavy object and straining your calves and feet; switching from wearing high heels to flats), then Plantar Fasciitis is a very likely diagnosis.
But if you’ve actually received an injury to your foot, or you can think of no risk factor that applies to you, you might want to see a doctor to rule out other sources of similar pain:
- stress fracture
- atrophy of fat pads in the feet
- tarsal tunnel syndrome
- some antibiotics having a risk of tendon damage
The good news is that for most of these, the same common-sense home treatments that help Plantar Fasciitis are also recommended as a first step.
Try These First
If the onset of your symptoms is recent, you will probably find the following to be very helpful in reducing pain. In a majority of cases, they will be the only treatment required to “cure” Plantar Fasciitis. So before you try one of the other therapies like acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis, try these first.
Ice and Rest
These are the first line of defense against a soft-tissue injury like Plantar Fasciitis. If in doubt about whether any activity will further stress your feet, don’t do it.
Gentle stretches to limber and loosen the calf muscles, Achilles tendons, and bottoms of the feet should be incorporated into your daily routine. Massage sore areas carefully.
Cream formulations of Ibuprofen, aspirin and Aleve, applied directly to the foot, will give the quickest relief. But tablets or capsules will also help.
Specialty athletic tape can be used to isolate and immobilize areas of the foot where you feel the most stress.
Buying an over-the-counter shoe insert (orthotic) may give some people the same or better results as taping—and it’s less trouble. But if the insert does not relieve pain—and especially if it becomes worse—it is doing more damage, so stop using it immediately.
Next Up: Acupuncture For Plantar Fasciitis
Keep in mind that most people will not be completely pain-free for several months or even longer—but a successful course of treatment will gradually reduce the severity and/or frequency of pain. If you’re not noticing that at all, you might want to consider acupuncture.
Although very little research exists to show that acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis is effective, anecdotal evidence suggests it might be beneficial for some patients. Considering the major expense and risks of other treatments for stubborn cases, acupuncture seems like a worthwhile bridge between self-treatment and more full-fledged medical care.
Acupuncture may be performed with or without accompanying electrical stimulation. There are several theories about why acupuncture relieves pain, mainly involving the release of endorphins—the body’s natural pain-killers.
In one study, which unfortunately included only 11 patients, 9 of those treated reported pain reduction of 50% or more. Two patients said their pain was completely resolved. To give acupuncture the best chance of success, you should plan on one or two treatments per week for at least a couple of months.
As long as you’re spending money on acupuncture, you may as well take the time to be sure you’re visiting a qualified, competent and compatible practitioner. There is a certification process for these professionals—a three-year training program administered by an accredited institution such as the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists (NCCAOM).
Your foot pain is important and wide-reaching. It can even become debilitating, so make sure the acupuncturist you select has enough experience to give you the very best treatment. There’s nothing wrong with a newly-certified practitioner getting their foot in the door, but you’ll have the most success with someone who has seen a wide range of conditions and clients, and has enough insight to help you discover potential triggers for your foot injury. In addition to the acupuncture itself, your acupuncturist should prescribe (and demonstrate) stretches and massage that will help you eliminate or reduce pain between visits.
And certainly avoid any professional who promises to cure your problem. Plantar Fasciitis is unpredictable in its response to any treatment, whether it’s acupuncture, splints, pain relievers or surgery. An acupuncturist can no more guarantee a good result than a podiatrist can guarantee a new pair of shoes will cure you.
And finally, if acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis does not seem to be reducing the pain to a manageable level, it’s probably time to see your doctor. There are still other avenues to relief before you consider anything as radical as surgery, and a referral to a qualified podiatrist or pedorthist can help you explore those options.