Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into different areas of the body known as acupuncture points. While the practice of acupuncture itself is reported to be thousands of years old, its use in the United States is still relatively new. According to Acupuncture Today, recent studies have shown that acupuncture can be an effective form of pain relief for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, but research regarding its use for plantar fasciitis is scant.
Many of the acupuncture points chosen to treat plantar fasciitis are on the foot and ankle. After a thorough evaluation the acupuncturist will determine which points are appropriate on a case by case basis. Often used points include Kidney 3 and Bladder 60, located between the ankle bones and the Achilles tendon. Other points that may be used include, Kidney 6 and Bladder 62, located below the ankle bones on either side. The acupuncturist will also palpate the sole of the patient's foot and needle any areas that are particularly tender.
Plantar fasciitis is often accompanied by tightness in the calf region. When the muscles of the lower leg are tight, more pressure will be placed on the plantar surface of the foot, and can result in plantar fasciitis. The acupuncturist may needle several points in the lower leg to help relieve this muscle tightness, in an attempt to correct possible causes of plantar fasciitis. Many of these points are located within the muscle belly of the calf on the back of the lower leg.
After a thorough evaluation, every patient will be given a diagnostic pattern by the acupuncturist. This is similar to being given a diagnosis in Western medicine. The acupuncturist will add acupuncture points based upon the diagnostic pattern. These points will address the constitution of the patient and treat any underlying causes of disease. Often the pattern points are located in areas that are not near the actual site of pain, for instance, on the upper part of the body. These points will differ from patient to patient.
Most acupuncturist will treat plantar fasciitis two times per week for four weeks. Each appointment will last about 45 minutes, with the needles left in place for about 20 minutes. It is common for electrical stimulation to be attached to the acupuncture needles in the treatment of plantar fasciitis. As reported by the "Journal of Medical Acupuncture," the combination of electroacupuncture and traditional acupuncture to the affected foot musculature produced a marked reduction in pain and improvement in function with a limited number of treatments. After the needles are removed, many acupuncturists will perform massage to the affected area and instruct the patient in a stretching routine to be performed at home several times per day.
Based in Connecticut, Jody Murray, has been writing and teaching in the field of sports medicine since 1997. Murray has an M.A. in exercise physiology from UNC-Chapel Hill and a B.S. in athletic training from Springfield College. Murray is also a licensed acupuncturist.