Pain in the Heel and Acupuncture

Pain in the Heel and Acupuncture

The heel is a very small part of our body, but when it is painful it will affect the entire body. Do you know that many pains in the heel are not always local area problems, but they may be associated with the internal organs, or blockage of certain channels along the body. In this article we will be looking at how to find the cause of the pain in the heel, and how to fix that.

1. Symptoms of pain in the heel

Pain in the heel is a very common symptom presented in the clinic. It can occur in all age groups, however in our clinic experience, the middle and older age groups experience it more often. The pain usually starts with mild pain in one foot, and if not taken care of the pain will become more severe. Pain can be associated with puffiness, and can spread to the ankle area. Due to the cause of the pain, some people will feel more pain when they first stand up to walk after sitting or lying down. Others experience the pain after standing for long periods of time. Most people don’t feel pain while they are sleeping or resting.

2. Cause of pain in the heel

(i) Kidney Weakness:
In Chinese Medicine the kidney channel flows to the heel, and also covers most of the sole of the foot. It also gives essence to nourish the bones. When a person’s kidney is weaker the sole of the foot, or heel will be lacking support from the kidney energy and channel and in blood supply, which leads to pain. There is more pain in the heel after standing or walking for long periods of time, and the pain lessens with rest.

With this type of pain the body may also experience the following symptoms: Lack of energy, lower back pain, heaviness or weakness in the legs, frequent urination at night, waking early, poor memory, lower libido, impotence and early menopause.

My suggestion if you suffer this type of pain in the heel and some of the other symptoms mentioned above is to:

a) Protect your lower back while doing things such as exercise, working etc
b) Ensure you have enough rest for your lower back, legs and feet after doing heavy activity or working for long periods of time
c) Ensure you have a good sleep, especially in the early morning
d) Eat certain foods to help your kidney energy such as beef bone soup, goji berries, prawns, scallops, soy beans or tofu (if you want more details about diet therapy please refer to the diet therapy articles)

(ii) Blood Stagnation blocking certain channels:
This is also a very common cause of pain in the heel. It is usually associated with an old injury which may have occurred in the lower part of the body (such as lower back, hips, legs). If the injury has not been completely resolved, this may cause stagnation of the blood and blockage of the channels in that area. After time this can affect the blood supply to the heel. This type of pain is more painful upon standing after sitting or lying down for a long period of time. It is more severe in particular spots on the heel, not the entire heel itself.

With this type of pain the body may also experience the following symptoms: chronic pain in the lower part of the body which comes and goes (lower back/hip/leg/knee), period pain and dark blood clots with bleeding in women.

My suggestion if you suffer this type of pain in the heel and some of the other symptoms mentioned above is to:

a) Fix the old injury while receiving treatment for the heel also
b) A certain amount of suitable exercise for the lower part of the body to improve circulation and bring blood supply to the heel
c) Avoid standing on cold floors/surfaces with bare feet
d) Soak your feet in warm water for 20 minutes every second day while suffering pain

(iii) Other causes:
Besides the common causes mentioned above, the following factors may also cause pain in the heel: Infection, Lifestyle, Overdoing (Long term standing or walking), and Uncomfortable shoes.

3. What we can do for pain in the heel

If you still cannot get rid of pain in the heel after one month, a general check up from your GP is recommended. If the examination is clear you should see an experienced Chinese Medicine Practitioner for a check and treatment. We will check your pulse, tongue and signs and symptoms to diagnose the cause of pain in the heel by traditional methods. Treatment principles will be based on the diagnosis and treatment may include acupuncture, meridian massage, cupping and/or chinese herbal medicine.

Two months ago before writing this article, one of my clients came to see me with a complaint of left heel pain for 6 months. She is female, aged 60, and had been unsuccessfully treated by others during this six month period. Her pain was sometimes very severe and caused her to limp when walking. I diagnosed her by traditional chinese medicine methods and I realised that her pain was associated with her lower back. After four sessions of acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine her pain was completely gone. Her body responded very well and we are both very happy with the results of treatment.

In ancient times it is said that your foot is a very important part of your body, as your journey through life begins with each step of your foot!

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Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.

  • Kristy Chambers

    Hello, I have had plantar fascitis in my right foot for nearly a year. I got it after running too much on pavements. The pain was severe at first but is now more uncomfortable but can become painful after standing or walking for long periods. I have had aa steroid injection (no effect), long term physio and podiatry and there has been no change. I wear insoles as well. I would really, really like to get this sorted and “traditional” methods have had limited impact. I am hoping that acupuncture could be a way for me to get my foot back! I really know nothing about acupuncture ie: how many sessions it would take etc.

    18 August, 2012