A recent study by the American Podiatric Medical Association revealed that more than three-quarters of Americans have experienced foot pain.1American Podiatric Medical Association Yet only one-third of those said they would seek medical attention for foot care. The reasons vary, whether people assume foot pain isn’t serious, are worried about the cost of treatment or are simply unaware of what treatment options are available.
Anyone — from athletes to office workers — can develop foot pain, specifically at the bottom of the foot. When this happens, it may be a condition called plantar fasciitis, referring to inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the band of tissue at the bottom of the foot connecting the heal bone to the toes.
When the pain of plantar fasciitis is persistent, it is considered plantar fasciosis.
Both related conditions make it difficult for people to stay active, but the right treatment options can ensure they get back on track. This article looks at the two conditions and current treatment methods to help prevent and treat such types of foot pain.
Plantar Fasciitis vs. Plantar Fasciosis
During the initial stages of pain, people may have pain at the bottom of the foot when first getting out of bed, or when standing up after sitting for a long period of time. This is a sign of plantar fasciitis. If left untreated, or if the pain becomes chronic, it is common for people to experience a constant state of inflammation (the “-itis” in fasciitis).
This type of inflammation often occurs after starting a new exercise program that involves bearing any sort of weight, even if it is your own weight.
In contrast to plantar fasciitis (the initial stages of plantar pain), plantar fasciosis (chronic pain) may lack any inflammation at all. After two to three weeks, any signs of inflammation may be replaced with more severe issues with the connective tissues. The “-osis” suffix implies a diseased state, and in this case, it is due to decreased flow of blood to the plantar tissue.
Treating the Source of Foot Pain
When seeking treatment for foot pain, it is essential to understand what is causing it in order to treat it correctly. You’ll want to communicate with your health practitioner with specific details regarding how and when it started.
Conventional medical treatment might consist of corticosteroid injections or the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce the inflammation. In my clinic I would consider a Traumeel injection and/or would use herbal medications that have an anti-inflammatory action.
For chronic cases of plantar fasciosis, it is important to break up the scar tissue and tissue buildup so adequate blood flow to the region can resume. Two highly effective ways of doing this are the use of deep-tissue massage and acupuncture.
In either case, whether the pain is acute or chronic, localized treatments are just one aspect of recovery from these painful conditions. It is crucial to look at strain and tension patterns in the legs, especially the calves, and it is also necessary to look at how weight transmits through the foot. Without addressing the underlying cause, the condition is likely to persist or worsen.
Acupuncture for Foot Pain and Plantar Fasciitis
When acupuncture is used to treat foot pain like plantar fasciitis, the insertion of small, very fine needles helps stimulate the flow of blood and hormones to the area of pain, thus healing the area and eliminating the pain. One study of patients at China’s Guangxi People’s Hospital found that a combination of acupuncture and a traditional Chinese foot bath was 91.8% effective in treating plantar fasciitis.2Health CMI
Deep Tissue Massage Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis
Deep tissue massage is also effective for treating plantar fasciitis. In a study published by Manual Therapy, patients with heel pain were divided into two groups.3Science Direct Half of the group had a treatment plan that involved deep tissue massages as well as an exercise program that involved stretching. The other half had a treatment plan that involved ultrasound therapy and the same stretching exercises. At the end of the study, the group who had deep tissue massages experienced a significantly higher success rate at treating plantar fasciitis than the group who used ultrasound therapy.
A combination of acupuncture and deep myofascial release to these and related regions yields excellent results and is often necessary when dealing with pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
Time-Tested Methods for Healing Foot Pain
Conventional approaches to relieving foot pain in the past century may not be our best options. As mounting data shows the health risks associated with NSAIDs, and surgery carries its own drawbacks, including post-operative pain often requiring NSAIDs or prescription drugs, it is worthwhile to consider gentle and time-tested methods for treating plantar fasciitis.
Minimally invasive treatment options such as acupuncture and deep tissue massage therapy offer hope for those seeking natural relief from plantar fasciitis.