Foot pain may result from a wide variety of problems. Two common observations when treating foot pain are vascular problems (low blood supply) and, often times, systemic muscle contraction. Bilateral foot pain is frequently associated with a systemic medical condition, such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, etc. Unilateral foot pain, on the other hand, is mostly associated with unequal weight bearing or pelvis inequality, which leads to excessive wear and tear. The most common causes for foot pain include trauma (strain or sprain), arthritis, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, Morton's neuroma, bunions and/or peripheral neuropathy caused by disease.
Through clinical experience treating various types of foot pain, we notice that circulatory dysfunction plays a major role. Feet are the most distant body parts, which makes them vulnerable to poor circulation. As a result, nerve pain, muscle spasm, swelling and pitting edema are common.
Acupuncture has a profound effect on foot pain due to its ability to relax the spastic tissue, improve blood flow and discharge the electrical and chemical imbalance of the painful foot. Moxibustion is also very effective in increasing circulation and moving stagnated blood; as with a sprain.
Heel spurs & plantar fasciitis:
Heel spurs (also medically known as plantar fasciitis) are a common cause of deep pain on the bottom surface of the heel. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue, which runs along the bottom surface of the foot, from the heel to the toes. It helps secure the arch. Long standing inflammation causes the deposition of calcium at the point where it inserts into the heel bone. This results in the appearance of a heel spur on the X-ray. The spur itself is not painful; however the irritation it causes in through the plantar fascia is what triggers the heel pain. Plantar fasciitis may also present itself as pain anywhere along the sole of the foot, particularly along the arch and just in front of the heel.
The symptoms get worse with weight bearing and walking and tend to be worse in the morning and after rest. Plantar fasciitis is more common in middle aged and overweight adults as well as long distance runners.
It is advised to wear a good support shoe with a stiff heel encounter (the part of the shoe which wraps around the heel) and a good arch. A well made running or walking shoe is a good example. Stretching the plantar fascia and strengthening the intrinsic muscles, which stabilize the arch, is beneficial, however this should not be attempted when the heel is sore. Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as, Ibuprofen or aspirin when tolerated could be used as well.
When the heel pain is persistent it is recommended to see your physician. Your physician may prescribe a prescription anti-inflammatory medication, inject a powerful anti-inflammatory medication to calm the inflammation around the painful area or prescribe physical therapy.
The effectiveness of Acupuncture & Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is of fundamental importance through massage and restoration of normal joint mobility and exercise. Formal physical therapy consists of applying taping and padding to relieve strain on the plantar fascia, application of ultrasound and/or electrical stimulation, splinting and exercises. In extreme cases surgical release of the plantar fascia and excision of the heel spur may be required, however this is needed very rarely. Patients are frequently advised to soak their feet to further assist the treatment effect. Fortunately, upwards of 80% of people treated early do remarkably well.
We, at ARC Physical Therapy and Pain Centers, can help you with your foot and heel pain!