By Nicole Murray, L.Ac.
At Beach Community Acupuncture, we treat quite a few people with foot pain. We see people diagnosed with tendonitis, Morton’s neuroma, plantar fasciitis, gout, arthritis, and more. Feet are prone to injury and pain because they bear the weight of the whole body. Strain and injury can affect any part of the foot, and may include bones, tendons, ligaments and/or muscles. We’ll look at some of the more common ailments we treat.
Tendonitis in the feet may be due to stress from overuse like running, walking, and excessive standing. Signs of tendonitis include stabbing pain and swelling. The pain will be worse while standing and better with rest. If the stress goes on for too long, the tendons may start pulling apart, causing more inflammation and pain. We work with tendonitis anywhere, and often see a painful rupture in the Achilles tendon. Medical doctors may advise using anti-inflammatory drugs, resting and elevating when possible, and stretching. We prescribe acupuncture as often as is practical for a short period of time (for example, 5 times in a week), to decrease inflammation and pain. We get excellent results for this condition. There are also a few incredibly effective herbal liniments, like “Zheng Gu Shui,” that are applied directly to the painful area to speed healing.
Morton’s Neuroma is an extremely painful condition affecting the ball of the foot, usually between the 3rd and 4th toes. It is caused by a “thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves leading to your foot…” (Mayo Clinic). The nerve pain that results will be a sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot, sometimes radiating to the toes. There may also be numbness in the toes. The conventional approach to this condition starts with adjusting footwear and using anti-inflammatory medications, and even injecting nerve blockers into the area. We advise acupuncture at least 3 times a week or 5-10 treatments to see how much pain reduction we can achieve. We often see favorable results, with either a dramatic reduction or elimination of the pain.
Plantar Fasciitis is pain and inflammation of the thick, tendon-like band of tissue that connects the heel and ball of the foot (forming the arch beneath the foot). The pain is a stabbing pain in the heel, and is known to be at its worst with the first few steps of the day. Think of the tissue as a rubber band that loses elasticity over time. With decreased elasticity, the tissue has trouble absorbing the shock of walking and running. People especially prone to plantar fasciitis are those with flat feet, are overweight, have diabetes, or suddenly start rigorous exercise. Doctors will try to offer arch support, stretching, and decrease in activity. If there are excess pounds to shed, that’s an important element of the approach. We like to see people daily for 7-10 days to start (or as often as possible). The more painful a condition, the more frequently we schedule treatments to affect change more quickly.
Arthritis is caused by bones that form a joint rubbing together, due to a breakdown of the cartilage between them. That’s what is meant by the expression “bone on bone” to describe the source of pain. In the feet we see a lot of arthritic pain in the toes. There will be pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected joint. Conventional treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, gentle exercise, weight loss, and water therapy. We add acupuncture to the regimen, usually 1-2 times a week for at least several months. Arthritic pain is a chronic condition, and we can help in incremental steps over a period of time. Some pain relief should be noted within the first several treatments. Some ongoing maintenance is usually needed.
If you have foot pain, look at your activity and footwear to see what quick, practical changes you can make. And come on in for some acupuncture. We hope to see you soon!