Dry and cracked heels is a very common symptom in males and females over the age of 50. In my clinical experience of over 30 years, I think cracked heels is mostly not only a skin issue but is closely associated with an internal organ imbalance. This is because cracked heels often improve or heal during the treatment of different conditions where specific channels are involved.
Before going into further detail, I would like to share a case from my clinic. A few months ago a 60 year old male came to see me with lower back and knee pain. He had an accident 5 years before and since then his pain gradually worsened. After my initial consultation I found out his Liver and Kidney channels were blocked. I gave him acupuncture and during the treatment I also realised he had cracked heels. The heels are associated with the Liver and Kidney channels. After two months of treatment his lower back and knee pain completely disappeared and his cracked heels also had significantly improved. He was very happy with the result.
1. What are the signs and symptoms of cracked heels?
Cracked heels look different from person to person. Usually the first sign is dryness around the heel area. Sometime small and shallow cracks appear and then they get bigger and deeper. Sometime one or two long and deep cracks appear. Long and deep cracks are often accompanied by pain.
2. What is the common cause of cracked heels?
Traditional Chinese medicine considers the most effective treatment to target the cause of the disease. This often lies in an imbalance of certain internal organs. Applying hydrating creams only temporarily relieves the problem and doesn’t directly target the cause.
In my clinical experience the common causes are:
Liver Qi stagnation and Kidney Yin and Yang Imbalance
This will affect the circulation to the heel area and cause dryness and cracks. Other symptoms such as thirst, dry skin, feeling hot during the day and night, sweating, insomnia, hot flushes, mood swings and irritability, dry eyes, flushed cheeks and/or stiff neck and shoulder can be experienced.
Diet recommendations: avoid hot and spicy foods such as ginger, garlic, lamb, onion and eat more cooling foods such as celery, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, lemon, honey, mug beans, Goji berries, green tea, chrysanthemum tea, peppermint tea, black beans.
Lifestyle recommendations: avoid exercising in hot and dry conditions and do more water activities and in parks and nature environments. Also apply and rub honey to your heels 3 times a week for 5 minutes each time.
Blockage in the Liver and Kidney Channels
This is often caused by accident or injury (such as the clinical case above) which will affect the circulation to the heels and result in dry and cracked skin. Accompanying signs and symptoms are lower back pain, leg pain and/or puffiness around the ankle area.
Diet recommendations: avoid eating or drinking things straight away from the fridge, eat more warming foods such as ginger, lamb, onion, chives, mandarine, chestnuts.
Lifestyle recommendations: protect your lower back, knees and sole of the feet from the cold (avoid walking barefoot on cold surfaces), soak your feet in warm water (about 30-40 degrees) for 15 minutes twice a week especially in the winter.
Traditional Chinese medicine considers that the external part of the body is always connected with the internal organs through the acupuncture channels therefore external symptoms can be related to certain internal order disorders.