Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common disorders affecting the heel and underside (also known as plantar side) of the foot. Most often seen in athletes, obese people, and persons whose jobs require a considerable amount of walking or standing (especially on hard surfaces). The thick connective tissue running from the heel to the toes, called plantar fascia, becomes painful and inflamed, making it difficult to walk. Excess weight or repetitive stress can cause small tears in the fascia, leading to sometimes severe pain that can take several months to resolve.
For most people, the pain happens first thing in the morning, as soon as they put their foot down to walk. Eventually as the foot warms up and becomes energized, the pain often lessens. However, discomfort throughout the day from too much standing or boosting oneself up from a sitting position is not uncommon.
Those most at risk include runners, individuals who are overweight, people between 40-60 years old and anyone who wears footwear without proper support (e.g. worn-out shoes or high heels). Other factors that may contribute to plantar fasciitis include:
Engaging in exercise and sports that put stress on the heel
Jobs requiring long periods of standing
The specific pain acquainted with plantar fasciitis strikes on or near the heel. When the plantar fascia becomes overly stressed, it may sustain tiny tears that can potentially worsen through repetitive movements such as running or ballet. Even stretching at this point may cause further irritation and inflammation.
Traditional therapies for plantar fasciitis vary depending on the degree of the condition and the person being treated. The most common forms of treatment include rest, ice, orthotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. More severe cases can require injections or even surgery. However, none of these modalities is considered more effective than another, and occasionally, patients will develop chronic, disabling symptoms despite the best efforts.
Recent studies have shown that acupuncture – with or without electrical stimulation – can be an effective form of pain relief for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, but research regarding its use for plantar fasciitis is scant. In an article in a recent issue of Medical Acupuncture, researchers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. examined the role of electroacupuncture in the management of this condition. The results of their study suggest that electroacupuncture is an effective form of care for plantar fasciitis, producing marked reductions in foot pain and improved function in a relatively short amount of time.
It is particularly important to seek treatment from your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine when symptoms first occur. One reason is because in an attempt to lessen the foot pain, some people may alter the way they walk. This puts extra pressure on other parts of the body, which may cause problems in the back, hips, knees and/or legs. Early treatment can help prevent your body from reaching this stage.
Are you having heel pain that might be plantar fasciitis? Call our office today at (304) 263-4927 to schedule an appointment to begin a multi-faceted treatment plan to end your foot pain. Dr Terry Chambers is a Board certified acupuncturist and licensed in WV.