Plantar fasciitis is a condition where the fascia (connective tissue) that wraps behind the heel around the bottom of the foot shorten and tighten, causing inflammation and pain. Patients with plantar fasciitis state that pain is often worse in the morning, and when walking or running. Conventional treatment for plantar fasciitis involves bracing, stretching, and physical therapy. Even still, most patients with plantar fasciitis can struggle with the condition for months or years.
When patients struggle to improve with plantar fasciitis, acupuncture should be considered. One of the general effects of acupuncture is that when a needle is inserted into the skin and twisted, it will wrap surrounding connective tissue around the needle like noodles around a fork. This twisting motion causes tight connective tissue to relax and lengthen, and this is exactly the kind of work that needs to happen when the plantar fascia are tight, constricted, or inflamed. If inflammation in the feet is low, moxibustion is also commonly used as the heat from the therapy causes the tissue to relax.
Beyond acupuncture, many patients improve quickly if they take matters into their own hands and practice daily self-care. Since fascia needs to be stretched and relaxed, rolling a tennis ball under the feet multiple times a day can be very helpful. (Many PTs or other health-care professions will recommend using a frozen bottle of water. While the pressure is helpful, ice slows down circulation and causes tissue to contract, which is the opposite action we want.) Many patients will also incorporate stretching their calves into this routine, and the avoidance of high heel shoes while in pain. All of these techniques are easy to practice and can be very helpful for immediate relief, though for severe fasciitis they will need to be used along with acupuncture or other therapies.