FOOT RELIEF: Traditional Chinese Medicine Remedies for Foot Pain and Strain

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by Kai-Chang Chan

Have you experienced extreme pain on the bottoms of your feet as you were about to take the first step in the morning? Did you feel that you could not comfortably walk, jog or climb stairs? These are symptoms of the condition called plantar fasciitis.

The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue that originates near the heel bone and extends extends along the sole of the foot before joining the foot at the base of the toes. This strong tissue supports the arch of the foot. Plantar fascia functions as one of the major transmitters of weight across the foot as you stand, walk or run.

Since tremendous stress is placed on it, excessive strain, degeneration of plantar fascia collagen, weight gain and even tight calf muscles may result in plantar fasciitis. Foot arch problems such as flat feet and high arches can also lead to plantar fasciitis. Often, these symptoms begin in one foot and then gradually spread to both feet.

“In Traditional Chinese Medicine, plantar fasciitis is considered to be a manifestation of the tight back fascia, which is itself a manifestation of kidney and liver deficiency.”
TCM Perspective

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fasciitis is understood to result from kidney and liver deficiencies; the kidney controls the bones while the liver controls the tendons and the ligaments. The kidney is regarded as the most important reservoir of the body’s essential energy that is required to nourish the bones and the whole body. The Kidney Meridian starts from the small toe, proceeds through the arch of the foot, and then flows upwards throughout the rest of the body. Alternatively, the liver stores blood, which nourishes tendons and ligaments. If the liver is deficient, it may result in muscle cramps.

In my experience, the patients who most often suffer from plantar fasciitis are: 1) elderly patients over age 55, 2) patients with a history of lower back injury, 3) patients with occupations that require prolonged standing or physical activity, such as athletes, 4) patients who are overweight, and 5) patients who experience severe stress at work and chronic insomnia. Usually the calf muscles and back muscles of plantar fasciitis patients are extremely tight. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, plantar fasciitis is considered to be a manifestation of the tight back fascia, which is itself a manifestation of kidney and liver deficiency.

Treatment

Acupuncturists can treat plantar fasciitis by improving blood circulation, removing blood stasis, easing pain, releasing sinews, and strengthening the Qi of the kidney and liver. Both acupuncture and herbal formulas are prescribed to treat plantar fasciitis. The most common points for treating plantar fasciitis are Kidney-1 (on the sole of foot), Kidney-3 (behind medial medullas) and Kidney-9 (the lower end of the belly of the gastrocnemius muscle).

In addition to the Kidney Meridian, the Bladder Meridian, which runs through the back fascia parallel to the Kidney Meridian, plays an important role in treatment as well. The most frequently used points consist of Bladder-18 (1.5 inch lateral to spine T-9), Bladder-23 (1.5 inch lateral to spine L-2), Bladder-40 (midpoint of the transverse crease of the popliteal fossa), and Bladder-57 (in a pointed depression below the gastrocnemius when leg is stretched or heel is lifted). The herbal formulas primarily strengthen the Qi of the kidney and liver to promote blood circulation such as Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang with Niu Xi, Chi Shao and Yan Hu Suo, based on the patient’s condition.

If you or someone you know is suffering from plantar fasciitis, consider a different approach to your treatment and consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.

Kai-Chang ChanKai-Chang Chan, L. Ac., M.A.O.M, was born in Taiwan and teaches in the San Antonio classrooms of Texas Health and Science University and is a practitioner at the new Acupuncture Health Clinic, 9240 Guilbeau Rd., 210-901-1234, www.acupuncturehealthsa.com. For more information about THSU classes in San Antonio and Austin, visit www.thsu.edu.

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