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Treating Plantar Fasciitis

By Diane Sheppard, Ph.D., L.Ac.

Sometimes, when you’ve been on your feet all day your “dogs” are barking. And sometimes they are barking so loudly you want to call animal control. You may have plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that supports the arch and is the most common cause of pain in the heel and the sole of the foot. Though often seen in athletes, especially runners, simply walking and standing on a hard surface may also cause symptoms. Nearly half of patients also have a calcaneal heel spur. Being overweight is also a contributing factor, often encountered in 40 percent of male and 90 percent of female patients. It is painful, debilitating and difficult to treat.

It is most commonly diagnosed as a repetitive stress disorder, like carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the accumulation of micro-trauma and inflammation of the tendons, ligaments and bone. However, occasionally it may occur as an acute strain. Conventional treatment involves rest, NSAIDs, ice and physical therapy, and a boot for support. The prognosis is usually for improvement after about two months of therapy.

It is impossible for most to stay off their feet for two months. Relief can be obtained more quickly and with better long-term resolution adding a combination of cupping, acupuncture and kinetic acupuncture. Herbal treatments especially in transdermal patches, along with kinesio taping to provide support, are also helpful. Often patients notice pain relief after the first treatment, although it may be temporary. A course of three to ten treatments, preferably two times a week, will likely provide good carry-over of relief and help put the patient “back on their feet.”

The experienced practitioner also recognizes that this, like so many disorders, is not just a localized problem. It is proper to think of plantar fasciitis as a lower body condition, not just a foot condition. When the qi is coursing freely through the legs, it is unlikely this condition would develop.

Certain exercises may also be beneficial. Lean forward against a wall with one knee straight and heel on the ground and the other knee bent. The heel cord and foot arch stretch while leaning. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and straighten up. Repeat for each sore heel. You can also lean forward onto a countertop, spreading the feet apart with one foot in front of the other. Flex your knees and squat down, keeping the heels on the ground as long as possible. The heel cords and foot arches will stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and straighten up. Repeat up to 20 times.

Plantar fasciitis can be at its worst when you first step out of bed. Try keeping a belt, stretch band or robe tie at hand to stretch the calf by pulling back on the balls of the feet before getting out of bed, and then roll a tennis or golf ball under the sole of the foot.

Resolving plantar fasciitis requires patience and commitment to medium term therapy and, as always, willingness to do your part in your own healing. Combining acupuncture and herbs to relieve pain and strengthen the body’s own defenses is a valuable complementary modality.

Diane Sheppard is the founding owner of AcQpoint Wellness Center in La Quinta. She is a licensed acupuncturist with a Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine and can be reached at (760) 775.7900. www.AcQPoint.com.

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