Most of my patients refer to their heel pain as plantar fasciitis, but only a few years ago most preferred to call it a bone spur. Heel pain can involve both the soft and bony tissues, it is insidious in onset, often becomes chronic and can be difficult for the patient to avoid aggravating factors. In Traditional Medicine heel pain is often attributed to excessive standing or excessive use of the lower extremities, which causes damage to the bones and sinews of the foot. In addition, the lower extremities often suffer from poor circulation due to their distance from the chest and become vulnerable to the cold. This aggravates painful tissues and stifles the body’s healing response.
Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation or irritation to the flat band of tissue that connects your calcaneal bone (heel bone) to your toes. Normally this tissue provides support to the arch of your foot. In a smaller percentage of cases there may be an accompanying calcaneal bone spur. Commonly, sufferers report pain underneath the heel, pain in the arch and stiffness of the foot and toes. These symptoms commonly occur when taking first steps after resting, at the start of physical activity, at the end of the day or after physical activity. At its worst, the pain is constant and quite excruciating. The name of this condition infers that there is inflammation in the tissues around the heel, and at times there can be swelling and heat. However, the tissues affected by this condition can also appear cold, stiff and painful.
Treatment often includes directly softening and warming the soft tissues at the site of the pain, whilst simultaneously reducing stiffness and pressure in connected muscles on the inside and back of the lower leg (flexors of the toes, soleus and gastrocnemius). Warming the heel area usually assists in controlling inflammation through improved circulation and radiation of blood and fluids. The rationale for this is explained in my article on sports injuries.
Because there is limping and fatigue, I often treat the lower back and hips to complete the treatment. This procedure often leads to success, however due to difficulty in controlling aggravating factors, it may need to be carried out frequently and be done in conjunction with a small amount of self-treatment, to allow healing to be achieved.