The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Podiatrists Weigh In: Can Acupuncture Help Cure Your Chronic Heel Pain?

Posted by on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

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Yesterday, we discussed how extracorporeal pulse activation therapy can help sufferers of chronic heel pain and plantar fasciitis. Today, we look at another type of treatment that doesn’t require drugs, downtime, or terribly invasive measures: acupuncture. The idea of having tiny needles stuck into the foot is enough to make most patients squirm in their seats, but people who have had it done say it doesn’t feel anything like you’d expect. Some people even find it relaxing!

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Image Source: AcupressureWellness.com

Does Acupuncture Work To Treat Heel Pain?

UK Researchers from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry recently reviewed five randomized controlled trials and three non-randomized studies that used both acupuncture and standard treatment like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to improve pain and function in chronic heel pain sufferers. They concluded, “There is evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture for plantar heel pain.” They added that the results were similar to stretching, use of night splints, and dexamethasone.

An even larger body of research was compiled by international scientists pooling 29 studies and results from nearly 18,000 participants and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Overall, acupuncture relieved pain by about 50%. “I think the benefit of acupuncture is clear, and the complications and potential adverse effects of acupuncture are low compared with medication,” said Dr. Lucy Chen, a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain specialist from Massachusetts General Hospital.

How To Use Acupuncture To Treat Heel Pain

To perform this treatment, a trained acupuncturist (certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) will insert hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points around the body. It is virtually painless when done by an experienced practitioner. Eastern medicine experts say it works by balancing the body’s energy flow. Western medicine experts say that acupuncture eases pain by influencing neurotransmitter activity and hormone levels. Weekly sessions (costing $65 – $125 each) are usually recommended until relief is felt, which could occur immediately or take up to a month. Unfortunately, Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers do not cover this therapy. You can, however, tap into your Health Savings Account to pay.

heel pain help
Image Source: Placidway.com

What Do Podiatrists Say About Acupuncture?

“My philosophy about acupuncture is to try the simple and basic options first,” says Dr. Nadia Levy, a pain management specialist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC. For new pain, an acupuncturist should not be the first stop.

First, patients should have a clear diagnosis of what is causing the pain. This may require a comprehensive physical examination or x-rays. From there, it may be prudent to try acupuncture once the diagnosis has been made. “Occasionally, the common treatments fail,” says Dr. Levy, “so why not try acupuncture? It is worth whatever chance it has to help relieve some of your pain.”

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.