Feet and Ankles
Acupuncture for Heel Spurs
It is caused by repetitive strain on the plantar fascia (plantar refers to the sole of the foot, and the fascia is a type of fibrous tissue). The plantar fascia connects to the heel bone (calcaneus) and when it is under constant strain it will cause the formation of a heel spur as shown in the diagram.
Acupuncture can treat this condition by needling directly on the heel spurs and anywhere it is tight & tender on the plantar fascia.
Acupuncture for Heel Pain
Heel pain can be indicative of a back problem.
In Chinese medicine the Bladder channel runs from the foot, along the back of the legs, up the back, over the head and to the corner of the eyes. For this reason it may be necessary to treat along the Bladder channel to treat heel pain. Special attention will be paid to the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) since these attach to the Achilles tendon. Excessive tension in the Achilles tendon will pull on its attachment and cause inflammation.
Acupuncture for Achilles Tendonitis
The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon of the body. It serves as an attachment of the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus). It is commonly inflamed and irritated by repetitive stress and it is a common problem amongst runners.
Achilles tendonitis is a painful condition and there is often swelling of the tendon and its surrounding sheath. There may be cracking sounds in the ankle joint (crepitus), and stiffness that is worse in the mornings or after prolonged sitting. As the tendon ‘warms up’, the stiffness subsides but then returns later on.
Acupuncture treatment is based on what is discovered on palpation. The Achilles is ‘pinched’ between the fingers and the most tender area is noted (most often midway in the tendon). It is also very important to examine and treat the calf muscles. If the calf muscles are tight then it will pull on the Achilles tendon and to the area that it attaches, i.e. the heel bone.
Achilles problems can also extend to include problems with the sole of the foot, referred to as ‘plantar fasciitis’. The calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and the fibrous tissue on the sole of the foot form a continuum and are often interwoven in their symptoms, especially with more long-standing cases.
The best treatment protocol I have found is twice weekly for three weeks. I would expect good results after this time, although more treatment may be necessary (on a weekly basis) especially if the problem is long-standing and the Achilles tendon has become thickened.
Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammatory condition that affects the bottom (plantar) of the foot. The plantar fascia itself is a fibrous connective tissue that runs from the heel to the toes.. as can be seen in the diagram.
When treating this condition, it is important to also look for tightness in the calf muscles and possible inflammation/ pain in the achilles tendon.
A very interesting book in biodynamics, called ‘Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for manual and movement therapists‘, considers the plantar fascia, heel, achilles tendon, calf muscles, and hamstrings to belong to something called the ‘superficial back line‘.
Without going into too much detail, it is important to look to see if there are any problems along the whole ‘superficial back line‘, and not base treatment solely on the plantar fascia. This is especially the case with long-standing fascia problems that have failed to respond with more conventional treatment.
I often combine acupuncture with deep tissue muscle to help with this painful condition. In terms of self-help, some people find relief by rolling a golf or tennis ball deeply into the sole of the foot, being slow and thorough rather than fast and vigorous. Keep it up for at least a couple of minutes, making sure the whole territory is covered from the ball of the five toes to the front edge of the heel.
Male aged 60 +
This patient I initially saw for knee pain . He then continued treatment to help manage his high blood pressure and occasional twinges in thumbs and toes (one treatment every 4-6 weeks). Sometime later he phoned me since he had developed terrible pain in both big toes and wondered if I could help. He was diagnosed with gout that was likely to have been medication-induced. He takes a combination of drugs for a heart condition.
Treatment was every other day for one week (three treatments) and then symptoms subsided. He had two more weekly sessions and the gout disappeared.
This is a case where acupuncture can be used to treatment some of the unpleasant side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs.