Acupuncture for heel pain: what to expect

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Heel pain or plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition, caused when the plantar fascia, a stretchy band of tissue important for maintaining the flexibility of the foot, is damaged and thickens. It is characterised by heel pain which gradually builds up and gets worse over time. The height of pain occurs when putting weight through the heel e.g. when getting out of bed in the morning. It is notorious for becoming a chronic problem with no quick solutions.

Recently I have being seeing an increase of the number of patients with heel pain in my clinic. One patient, Taz, kindly wanted to share her positive experience of acupuncture to help inform treatment choice and expectations for those suffering with foot pain.

Taz’s story

T AhmedI had been suffering from chronic Plantar Fasciitis (PF) since 2013 (two years!?!?! I genuinely can’t believe that!).  Although it had started in 2011 when very occasionally, I’d say once every 4-6 months, I would wake up and would not be able to put one of my heels down on the floor (I can’t recall if it was always the same heel each time), so I would be limping around for around 30 minutes after which I’d be fine.  But as I said this became chronic mid-way through 2013 after several months of commuting from Reading to East London on standing room only trains and tubes carrying (as well as my extra weight) a heavy laptop bag.  Foolishly I didn’t take a break and let my feet heal (and it was both feet this time) as I’d started a new project and a new role and we had crazy deadlines (as usual!).

I got through the next few weeks/months changing shoes between trainers and work shoes when I got to the office and really minimising the amount I had to walk (or in my case hobble) during the day. This in retrospect was foolish as I was carrying more weight (because I was bringing in spare shoes and lunches to avoid having to go out and get lunch), and this meant I wasn’t exercising my feet or the rest of me – so I ended up putting on more weight which invariably made the PF worse.

I tried sooooooo many things! Leg splints, strapping my feet, a foot roller, using a tin can to roll my foot on, stretching.  But to be honest I would only ever do these things when the pain was really bad.  Each to a varying degree would help ease the pain.  Then I’d start to feel semi-normal and just plough on with life and everything that had to get done and forget to support the muscles that were supporting me!

I changed jobs to a more balanced work environment, however this was a 15-20 minute drive from home.  So where I had used to do some exercise in the form of walking I was now almost constantly driving everywhere.  Within around 10 months of this I found I’d put on more weight, wasn’t able to shift it, and was now in more pain than ever from the PF.  During an online search I came across an abstract for a scientific paper which had concluded from tests that acupuncture was capable of reducing the pain of PF.

I went about contacting local acupuncture practitioners and in the ended decided that Siân was the practitioner for me. Within the week I had an appointment booked.

My treatment was varied and included traditional acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, press tack needles as well as (incredibly kindly) massage of my very tight leg muscles whilst the acupuncture needles were in.  Siân didn’t just focus on my feet for the PF but also my knees and points that helped pain management.

feetI had six sessions.  To say that the difference in the pain and my mobility (feet, knees and breathing) was improved would be an understatement!  By my third session I’d noticed improvements in my knees quite unexpectedly as I blearily walked down the stairs one morning and wondered what seemed different.  I wasn’t feeling the usual knee pain I got in the mornings!  Each time I went back I was able to feedback on progressively more and more positive progress in not only the mobility in my feet and knees but also a reduction in pain.  I think I’d started off with a feeling that the pain was around 8/10 and this went down to what I’d class as 3/10!… after almost three years of chronic sever pain this has been a huge turn around for me.

One of the things Siân advised me to do, to help support my recovery, was to spend time stretching my legs, calves and feet as much as I could.  I think this advice really was invaluable in helping me make the strides in the recovery that took place, and I really can’t recommend enough the combination of acupuncture and foot & calve rolling enough!  Invest in a foam roller and foot roller (or just use tin of beans for your calves and feet!).  Whenever you have a moment – nay! Make the moment!

I’m not saying I’m cured as I do get small aches and pains sometimes.  But the acupuncture combined with stretching has started me on a road to recovery for which I will be forever grateful!  Thank you, Siân!

Further Information

If you are interested in finding out more about acupuncture treatment of heel pain please contact me.