The most common heel problems include plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, tarsal tunnel syndrome and Sever’s disease. The plantar fascia is the connective tissue surrounding the muscles of the sole of the foot. It helps with weight-bearing function. In the case of plantar fascitis, the fascia becomes inflamed. The inflammation results from small tears in the fascia, resulting in pain on the bottom of the foot, especially toward the heel region. Pain increases with standing on tiptoe or standing after a period of rest, in particular when getting up in the morning. Stress, rapid weight gain, repetitive motions, running and an unbalanced gait can cause the fascia to become inflamed.
Acupuncture is very effective in treating plantar fasciitis because of its ability to reduce inflammation, the primary cause of the syndrome. It can also help to balance the muscles involved in walking so that the fascia is not strained, allowing it to heal. Acupuncture also relaxes the muscles of the foot, further decreasing inflammation, and stimulates the body to release endorphins, naturally relieving pain. Stretching your calf muscles before running or walking and wearing properly, supportive footwear will also help your fascia heel. I mean “heal”. A heel spur is a calcium deposit on the calcaneus or heel bone. Heel spurs often result from plantar fasciitis; 70% of people with plantar fasciitis also have heel spurs.
Sever’s disease occurs mainly in children and adolescents. The combination of activity and rapidly growing heel bones cause the pain. These literal growing pains can cause children to lose sleep. Although the symptoms of Sever’s disease disappear naturally as the child’s growth slows, acupuncture helps to relieve the pain and reduce inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heel bone so the child can continue with normal activities.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome, also called posterior tibial neuralgia, occurs with compression of the tibial nerve inside the tarsal tunnel, which is just above the heel, right behind the ankle on the inside of the leg. Stresses, such as repetitive use, lack of flexibility in the calf muscles and muscle strain cause this syndrome. Symptoms include swelling, numbness of the foot, pain and tingling of the base of the foot and heel. In cases of severe neural compression, the entire foot may lose sensation. With this syndrome, blood flow usually decreases along with the sensation. As blood flow is constricted on the way back to the body, walking or standing may cause fluid to collect in the foot—a painful condition. Acupuncture helps with tarsal tunnel syndrome by relieving tension, restoring balance, and diminishing inflammation in the tissues around the nerve to reduce compression. As the swelling goes down, pain decreases. Acupuncture also stimulates the nerves to speed the healing process. I apply acupuncture therapy to the heel and also, depending on the exact nature of the symptoms, on other point sites, as well.