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Acupuncture & Foot Pain

by
author image Christy Callahan
Christy Callahan has been researching and writing in the integrative health care field for over five years, focusing on neuro-endocrinology. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, earned credits toward a licensure in traditional Chinese medicine and is a certified Pilates and sport yoga instructor.
Acupuncture & Foot Pain
A acupuncturist with a model foot demonstrates where the needle should go. Photo Credit Li Ding/iStock/Getty Images

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat many diseases, chronic conditions and acute symptoms. It can be particularly beneficial for pain, as it can treat both locally and systemically. Both acute and chronic conditions have been shown to respond well to acupuncture treatments, and can even help where conventional medicine was ineffective, according to an article published in 1996 in "Acupuncture in Medicine." Be sure to discuss your condition thoroughly with your physician and acupuncturist before beginning acupuncture treatments.

Pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Information Page, pain is considered a stagnation of qi, or energy, in traditional Chinese medicine. Qi runs in channels throughout the body. When an energy channel, or meridian, is blocked, pain can be experienced. Bruising occurs when one such meridian is blocked near the surface of the skin, while arthritis stems from qi stagnation in the joints. Acupuncture helps to break up the blockages and directly promote the smooth flow of qi.

Causes of Foot Pain

The phrase "foot pain" is not enough information for any type of practitioner to begin treatment. The foot has 38 bones, a myriad of tendons and ligaments, and is responsible for a great deal of our ability to stand, walk and run. Because of all these moving parts, many types of injuries can occur, and pain symptoms can vary greatly. The website Acupuncture Today lists improper foot posture, such as pronation, as one of the main triggers of foot pain. Improper footwear, edema, neuromas, overuse, exercise, and foot problems such as bunions and hammertoes can also cause pain in the feet. Each of these causes can be accompanied by pain in a specific area or certain type of pain. Plantar fascitis can have pain stemming from the heel and radiating toward the toes, while a bunion can cause pain and swelling in a more local area.

Acupuncture Research

Several studies have found acupuncture to be an effective method for relieving different types of foot pain. In 1996, a study was published in "Acupuncture in Medicine" stating that acupuncture treatments on chronic foot pain were effective where western medical treatments were not. The journal "Medical Acupuncture" conducted a study using electroacupuncture on plantar fascitis. Electroacupuncture consists of passing an electric current through needles inserted into the patient's skin. According to this study, 82 percent of patients claimed a 50 percent or more improvement in pain reduction. They also found a correlation between the duration of disease and the number of treatments required, implying that the more chronic a condition, the more treatments will be needed.

Acupuncture Points on the Foot

Heel pain or heat in the soles of the feet, according to "A Manual of Acupuncture," can be treated by needling spleen 4, which is located on the inside of the foot, in the depression at the base of the first metatarsal bone. Spleen 5, located near the medial malleous, or inner ankle bone, can be particularly helpful in cases of ankle pain. For chronic numbness or pain, an acupuncturist may choose a point on the sole of the foot, kidney 1. There are points in between the toes on the top side of the foot, as well as along the outside edge of the foot. Your acupuncturist will decide which points are right for you, based on your specific condition.

Acupuncture and Western Medicine

According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Information Page, acupuncture helps treat pain in a variety of ways. From a western medical perspective, acupuncture treatments help to release endorphins and enkephalins, substances needed for pain mediation. It also stimulates certain neurotransmitters, which are also important in pain perception, as well as adrenocoricotropic hormone, or ACTH. ACTH a hormone that triggers the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is important in the body's inflammatory response, and it is also involved in the release of norepinephrine and epinephrine. Epinephrine is adrenaline, a potent hormone that can help decrease pain perception.

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