Acupuncture For Heel Spurs – Is It Effective?

When you’re dealing with pain from heel spurs, you’re willing to do anything to get it to stop. If you’re reading this article, then you’ve thought about acupuncture, and that’s exactly what will answer: what you need to know about acupuncture for heel spurs.

We’ll discuss what acupuncture is, how it works with heel spurs, and how effective it is in treating heel spurs so that you’ll discover whether it’s a good option for you or not.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a practice used in traditional Chinese medicine in which practitioners typically use thin needles to stimulate certain points in the body. 

Although acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine, studies do suggest that it may be useful to help ease chronic pain in areas like the lower back, neck, and knees.

While some practitioners are solely acupuncturists, it is also true that some conventional medical providers like physicians may also be able to assist you with acupuncture. 

It is important that you use acupuncture in conjunction with seeing your health care provider as opposed to a substitute. 

What Does Acupuncture for Heel Spurs Look Like?

Depending on the recommendation of your medical provider, acupuncture may look a little different from individual to individual. In one study, researchers administered acupuncture once per day for 20-minute durations during a ten-day period.

The idea is to place needles into specific points on your body to help stimulate your nerves, which will in turn communicate with your brain to release neural hormones that increase your pain threshold. 

Acupuncture is also known as warm needling, and the needles will be placed into the injured area for up to 30 minutes. Typically, treatment occurs on at least a weekly basis, and it may take several sessions to figure out how responsive your body is to acupuncture.

Will Acupuncture Help Treat Heel Spurs?

Unfortunately, the evidence is somewhat inconclusive as to whether acupuncture and other natural treatments will help your heel spurs. If you’ve tried everything else and it isn’t working, then it might be worthwhile to talk to your health care provider about referring you to an acupuncturist.

It Helps With Chronic Pain

For example, one meta-analysis study reviewed almost 30 randomized controlled trials where acupuncture had been studied for four chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, headaches, osteoarthritis, and shoulder pain. 

While the study didn’t look specifically at heel pain, it did conclude that acupuncture is a good treatment option for those dealing with chronic pain. 

While it is more than a placebo, the differences are not very stark, leaving it up to you whether acupuncture would be beneficial or not for you personally.

It’s a Good Short-Term Treatment Option

Another study came to a similar conclusion as the meta-review study although it specifically looked at the impact of acupuncture on heel spurs. While it could be helpful in the short term, acupuncture may not be a good solution long term for plantar fasciitis.

The study found that four to eight weeks of acupuncture therapy can substantially reduce pain from plantar fasciitis, so if you just need acupuncture for a short period of time, then it might be a good option.

It Helps Reduce Pain

Finally, one study looked specifically at a 38-year-old female who had been dealing with heel spur pain for the past five years. She received acupuncture treatment twice a week for four months, one a week for one month, and twice a month for one month.

In other words, this patient received 38 sessions of acupuncture treatment for 30 minutes each time over a duration of six months. After one month, the patient indicated that she felt more comfortable walking after one month of treatment.

Based on this study, the authors concluded that acupuncture treatment for heel spurs is a viable option if you have been dealing with heel pain due to running or another cause.

Another study confirmed this conclusion, conducting a systematic review of studies that looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture for plantar heel pain. 

One study included in the review showed a substantial improvement in pain when acupuncture was combined with standard treatment. Another demonstrated that certain points were more effective than others in addressing heel pain.

Final Thoughts

While it is clear that acupuncture definitely works for heel spurs in some instances, the evidence is not completely conclusive that it will always work. If you’ve always wanted to try acupuncture and you’re dealing with heel pain, this is your chance!

But if you haven’t exhausted all your other options for relieving heel spur pain (this includes the correct shoes for heel spurs), you might want to hold off on acupuncture, especially if you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for it. Acupuncture may work, but it might not.

Thus, the short answer to the question of whether acupuncture is effective for heel spurs is sometimes. If it’s covered by your insurance and you’ve tried other options, acupuncture could be a great solution for dealing with heel spurs.

However, the evidence isn’t conclusive enough to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on acupuncture for heel spurs only to find that it doesn’t happen to work on you. Acupuncture for heel spurs is a good second option, but maybe not so much as a first option.

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Kai, Xu, Liu Yong-xin, and Diao Jian-wei. “Clinical Research on Treating Heel Pain with Warm Needling on Ashi-points.” Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion (November 2010). http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-ZJLC201011022.htm

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Acupuncture: In Depth.” Accessed September 14, 2020. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture-in-depth

Sahin, Aysegul Elbir, Yasemin Cayir, Ahmet Imerci, Hulya Uzkesar, and Fatih Akcay. “Heel Spur and Acupuncture: Does It Work?” The West Indian Medical Journal (November 2015). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285384390_Heel_Spur_and_Acupuncture_Does_it_Work#:~:text=There%20is%20no%20evidence%20that,forms%20of%20bursitis%20and%20arthritis..

Thiagarajah, Anandan Gerard. “How Effective is Acupuncture for Reducing Pain Due to Plantar Fasciitis?” Singapore Medicine Journal 58, no. 2 (February 2017): 92-97. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5311890/.

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