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How to get rid or prevent Heel Pain (足跟/底痛)

Have you experienced the following: 

  • Feeling pain at the heel or bottom of the feet when you first stand in the morning after waking up or after sitting for long periods of time.
  • Pain is sometimes described as a knife or pin sticking into the bottom of the feet.
  • The pain decreases after a few minutes of walking.

For some people, the pain returns after walking for a long period. 

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Heel pain is commonly caused by plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the fibrous band of connective tissue that extends from the bottom of the foot to the toes. It can also be caused by a heel spur, arthritis and other causes.

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Some Possible Reasons of Heel Pain

  1. Wearing inappropriate shoes like flip flops, flats or high heels for a prolonged period
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2. Standing or walking for long hours

3. High intensity sports like running or jumping that causes tension and tightness in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon 

4. Having flat foot 

A common misconception that is bone spur (骨刺) is the root cause of heel pain.

In fact, you can have bone spur and do not experience heel pain.

You can have heel pain and no bone spur too. 

Bone spur or calcaneus bone growth is not the direct cause of plantar fasciitis and/or heel pain.

Why do we experience pain mainly at the heel side of the plantar fascia?

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The 4 Gait phases of walking: 

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  1. Heel strike
  2. Foot-flat
  3. Mid-stance
  4. Push-off  (Heel rise🡪Toe off)

During the heel rise phase, the foot functions as a lever to move the body forward. As the toes extend, the plantar fascia tightens and elevates the arch of the foot. As pressure is the force divided by the area where the force is applied, the bottom of the heel is relatively smaller compared to the rest of the foot and hence receives the most impact. An average human takes 3,000-10,000 steps per day. Overtime, as the bottom of the foot experiences chronic repetitive impact, this leads to inflammation and heel pain.

TCM Approach to Heel pain

Depending on the cause, symptoms and duration diagnosed by the TCM practitioner, the following combinations of methods are used to treat heel pain

  1. Acupuncture 
  2. Tuina massage
  3. Moxibustion
  4. Herbal medication
  5. Lifestyle modifications

Acupoint Massage to relieve symptoms of  Heel Pain

Massage Da Ling PC 7 (大陵穴) and gently stamp your foot

Location:  In the middle of the wrist crease between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis

What to do:

  1. Massage the “Da Ling” point on the opposite side of the body from the heel pain. If the left heel hurts, massage the point on your right wrist.
  2. Massage the point with the tip of your finger till you feel soreness. Maintain that pressure while making very small circles. Gently stamp your feet and walk while stimulating the acupoint. You should slowly begin to notice a decrease in heel pain.

Stretches to relieve heel pain

Plantar Fascia Stretches

  1. Sit up straight
  2. Place a folded towel under the arch of one foot
  3. Hold the ends of the towels with both hands, and gently pull the top of your foot towards you. Hold for 10 seconds and release
  4. Rest for 5 seconds and repeat 5-10 times
  5. Repeat on the other foot
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And/Or

  1. Prepare a foam roller or water bottle 
  2. Sit up straight 
  3. Roll your foot back and forth over it
  4. Do this for one minute and change to the other foot
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Calf stretch

  1. Stand at an arm’s length from the wall. 
  2. Place hands flat in the wall at chest level
  3. Place one foot in front with the knee bent and one foot behind with the knee straightened. 
  4. Keep both feet flat on the ground
  5. Lean forward to stretch and hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and release.  Repeat 3 times. 
  6. Reverse the position of your legs, and repeat.
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Lifestyle modifications

  • Wear the right low-wedge shoes with padding, especially when you need to walk or stand for a prolonged period.
  • Avoid wearing flip flops, flats or high heels.

Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Physician Kang Ting Tan

TCM Physician,

Lead (Platform Development and Training)

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