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workout wednesday

Last Workout Wednesday, when I talked about my new running shoes, I alluded to the fact that I’ve been dealing with a minor injury since about January or February. It started with very tight calves, that would occasionally cramp up so badly I could hardly take a step! Because I didn’t change shoes or deal with my tight calves, this eventually turned into one of the dreaded but most common runner’s injuries … plantar fasciitis.

Plantar-Fasciitis-Foot-Pain

(picture source)

Once the plantar started getting worse around May, I got an x-ray to make sure there was no bone spur, and an MRI to confirm that I wasn’t doing more damage by continuing to run. Basically, the doctor told me that I could take 3-6 months off of any exercise and have it heal, or I could keep running and exercising, and it would likely heal in 9-12 months. It was an easy decision for stubborn, exercise-loving me … I kept running! It has been painful at times, and sometimes I had to sacrifice high-quality runs, but I’m grateful that I’ve been able to run through it and still get to the point where I have almost healed!

Over the past several months, I’ve tried a lot of different treatments for my plantar fasciitis. My massage therapist and chiropractor (at the amazing Inwood Chiropractic) have been treating it with deep tissue massage, adjustments, and therapeutic ultrasound. I wear this compression sock when I sleep most of the time, I stretch my calves regularly, I roll my foot over a lacrosse ball or a frozen water bottle, I ice it as much as I can, and of course, I changed shoes (like I told you in this post).

In addition to all of this, I just started seeing an incredible acupuncturist to add to my suite of treatments. Although I was already seeing great progress in healing, I can tell that acupuncture and other holistic treatments are going to get me the rest of the way back to optimal health. So, I invited my friend and licensed acupuncturist, Amy Moll (check out her impressive bio at that link!), to share her thoughts on treating plantar fasciitis naturally. Take it away, Amy!

amy moll LAc

Healing Plantar Fasciitis Naturally

I have noticed a distinct trend as to when patients start trickling into my office for the treatment of plantar fasciitis – it’s always around spring or fall. I think there are several reasons for this:

  1. People are switching footwear – going from Uggs to flip flops or high heels (and other shoes with poor support for the sake of fashion), or vice versa.
  2. People start running more. (Megan’s note: YAY! How could you not? The weather is so beautiful in spring and fall! But, of course, building up gradually is critical, and runners aren’t always patient enough to do this).
  3. People are transitioning over to minimalist shoes such as Vibrams, New Balance Minimus, or Merrell Barefoot for weightlifting, walking, and running. This transition process can be tricky. You aren’t breaking in your shoes as much as you are “breaking in” your feet to a different way of functioning, and it takes way more than a few weeks to do that. Many excited overzealous folk try to do too much too soon, and end up with plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, or other pain syndromes.

As an acupuncturist, I love treating plantar fasciitis because of the immediate feedback I get from patients. I’ve had the same scenario play out many times. A patient comes in with pain on the bottom of their foot, and an hour later they get off the table, give me a quizzical look and say “should I already be feeling better? Because I do.” That’s when I smile sweetly and say “yes, but please don’t go out for a 6 mile jog just yet.” (Megan’s note: yes, I said almost exactly those words!)

People do get immediate results, however, regular treatments for 2-3 months are necessary to truly allow the body to heal. We can’t avoid using our feet. Often people feel better, then they get worse again after a long day of standing and walking, and there is an up and down bumpy road to recovery. (Megan’s note: take it from me, the road to recovery can be 9+ months, if you’re too stubborn to take time off of running!) I use a lot of different tools and techniques in the treatment of plantar fasciitis that are very effective. Before I dive into those, I want to explain a little about the fascia.

What is fascia?

Fascia, also called connective tissue, is a layer of tissue that surrounds our muscles almost like cling-wrap. When we injure an area, it causes the fascia to “bunch up” and “stick” to the muscles, rather than glide smoothly along the muscle, much like skiing with no wax on your skis – painful. There is a lot of recent research analyzing the amount of nerve endings in the fascia and what they are discovering is that fascia can transmit 10 times the information, including pain signals, to the brain than muscle. This means that when the fascia is injured, or not moving freely, the nerves are sending pain signals to the brain. This is where acupuncture comes in.

My natural medicine tool bag

Acupuncture has been shown via functional MRI imaging research to alter the tension within the fascia. When a needle is inserted in the body and then twisted, it wraps around the fascia effectively “winding” it up. When the needle is removed, the tissue unwinds, and goes back to a relaxed and more mobile state. Acupuncture has a huge impact on improving fascial movement. In addition to acupuncture, there are three adjunctive therapies I love to use:

  • Myofascial release is a type of massage that works specifically on freeing up the fascia.
  • Gua sha is a technique used in Oriental medicine to help break up scar tissue and adhesions that form within muscles and connective tissue. If your foot feels “crunchy” when you massage the bottom of it, you could benefit from some gua sha! (Megan’s note: I had this done all up and down my leg! It’s not the most comfortable thing ever, but it works so well!)
  • Kinesiotape is a special type of tape that I apply to the bottom of the foot to help relieve pain in plantar fasciitis. It usually lasts 2-3 days before needing to reapply.

needle in neck acupuncture

(picture source)

A frequent question

“So, if my foot hurts, why are you sticking a needle in my neck?” The plantar fascia is part of a long, completely connected sheet of connective tissue that runs from the bottom of the feet, up the back of the legs, all the way up the back, and wraps around the head to attach in the front of the skull. It’s referred to as the Superficial Back Line. Imagine the back side of your body is the top of a mattress and this sheet of connective tissue is like a fitted bed sheet. If you grab a corner of that sheet and twist and bunch it up, it’s going to put tension on all three other corners and everything in-between. Acupuncture points along the back of the legs, on the back, and the neck, help to relieve tension in all areas of the “bed sheet” including the one corresponding to the bottom of your hurting foot. I always like to make the disclaimer that there are many, many ways to explain how acupuncture works, this is just one simple analogy appropriate for the current topic.

To learn more about how acupuncture and the other modalities discussed above, feel free to e-mail Amy at amymoll@hraclinics.com, or visit her blog, or practitioner website, Healing Response Acupuncture.

So tell me in the comments … Have you ever dealt with plantar fasciitis or any other chronic injury? Have you tried acupuncture?

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16 Comments

  1. Tina Muir on October 22, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Ugh, sorry to hear that Megan, I have been there, and its not fun! Glad you have found something that works…..I need to get over my needle fear for acupuncture one day, you are another person who highly recommends it! I have found ART has been great for my niggles recently. I hope as I begin this new segment, I am able to stay healthy and not need either 🙂 Great information!
    Tina Muir recently posted…Find Your Strong- Is the “Runner” Body Image Finally Changing for the Better?My Profile

  2. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine on October 22, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Very interesting! I wish I knew this when I was dealing with that injury about 8 years ago! Glad that you are almost healed, Megan!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…WIAW At Our Favorite RestaurantMy Profile

  3. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table on October 22, 2014 at 7:07 am

    I had plantar and totally fixed it by dry needling! It uses acupuncture needles, but works off of a different principle. It also fixed my tennis elbow!
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Big Gay Ice Cream WIAWMy Profile

  4. Susie @ SuzLyfe on October 22, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I’ve dealt with a low grade of it before. But that is fascinating about working on the neck to heal the plantar! I know that things are connected (hello, kinetic chain), but that is a new level! Thank you for sharing!
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Last Minute Meals (New Protein Bowl, Mac N Cheese, Sweet Potato Hash)My Profile

  5. Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner on October 22, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I’ve heard a lot about accupuncture lately. I might give it a try if my hip doesn’t start feeling better soon
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Rock n Roll DC Kickoff-Win an entry to the March RaceMy Profile

  6. Gary on October 22, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Meg: This is a very informative explanation of the problem, its causes, and most importantly, another method of treatment that is probably not well known to or understood by most runners. I have battled plantar fasciitis at different times during my many years of running and only wish I had known enough to utilize acupuncture as a treatment. Not hoping I will have the future need, but I will now have this knowledge in “my tool box” to address the condition. Thank you to Amy.

  7. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on October 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Great post Megan! Like I mentioned to you last week, my accupuncture really eliminated almost all my pain, but it is so important to follow through with the treatment like she aiggested above. It was the turning point for me in my recovery and I would do it again and again.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…WIAW…Orphan Food & Injury Pity PartyMy Profile

  8. Sunday Funday 10/26/14 - Skinny Fitalicious on October 26, 2014 at 6:01 am

    […] How I am Healing My Plantar Fasciitis via The Lyon’s Share – Acupuncture really does help alleviate with many pains. […]

  9. Daisy @ Fit Wanderlust Runner on October 26, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I am currently going through the same issue. Been dealing with plantar fasciitis for the past year on and off. Mine was mostly due to bad work shoes. I never thought of acupuncture though! Natural way definitely seems more up my alley.
    Daisy @ Fit Wanderlust Runner recently posted…Friday Fives: 5 Reasons to Run a Half MarathonMy Profile

  10. lindsay on October 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    i’m so sorry friend. That is no fun, but i do think acupuncture does wonders! Agreed! keep at it! xxoo

  11. Dr. Vasili Gatsinaris@ NLW on December 1, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Glad to know you are now doing well. Dealing with your debilitating condition with natural treatment is quite commendable. Thank you for sharing your experience with this health condition and the treatment you’ve opted for.

  12. Chiropractic Services Northern NJ on September 20, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Chiropractors heal your body naturally. Some skeptics just don’t see that. But it really does wonder. My personal experience on back pains got “fixed” by chiropractors that build my trust towards them.

  13. Maria Haven on October 6, 2015 at 6:55 am

    I have to admit I used to be one of the many acupuncture sceptics myself! However, I finally bit the bullet and went for my first session a few weeks ago after a friend more or less forced me to go. I get a lot of neck trouble, but acupuncture is easing my pain so I think I am a convert!
    Maria Haven recently posted…WordPress Resources at SiteGroundMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on December 1, 2015 at 9:44 am

      I’m so glad acupuncture is working for you, Maria!

  14. Carl on May 21, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Acupuncture needles to treat plantar fasciitis? That sounds very rough! I am glad I used compression socks back when I was struggling with plantar fasciitis. I continued running, and the condition went away after one month instead of the 9-12 months your doctor suggested.
    Carl recently posted…How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis Quickly and Effectively: The Best Compression Foot SleevesMy Profile

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