Plantar fasciitis is a condition in the feet that typically causes pain and discomfort when walking. Patients are usually treated with a mixture of modern Western medicines and therapies, including ibuprofen, physical therapy and orthotics, but how do complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) such as Dry Needling compare? In this article, we explore the effectiveness of Dry Needling for plantar fasciitis, how it works, and how long it takes to work.
So, is Dry Needling good for plantar fasciitis? Multiple studies indicate that Dry Needling may be an effective treatment for the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, particularly for those that have exhausted traditional Western methods, and for those that want to avoid more invasive treatments.
Read on to learn more about Dry Needling for plantar fasciitis and how it works.
Does Dry Needling Help Plantar Fasciitis?
Evidence from a number of clinical studies indicate that trigger point Dry Needling may offer pain relief from plantar fasciitis, particularly in the long-term; there is limited evidence to suggest that it works effectively in the short term. It goes on to state that Dry Needling can help plantar fasciitis, but primarily in those where heel pain is of a musculoskeletal origin.
A 2016 study suggested that Dry Needling is a good option for patients before undergoing more invasive therapies or procedures, or for those that have exhausted more traditional therapies such as stretching and foam rolling and tissue mobilisation.
Meanwhile, other studies indicated that Dry Needling may reduce the symptoms of plantar fasciitis quicker than more traditional therapies - in one controlled trial the Dry Needling group required just three weeks to relieve their symptoms whereas the control group required 21 weeks.
How Does it Work?
Trigger point Dry Needling works by inserting thin, sterile needles into the affected area which then stimulates a twitch response in the muscle. This allows the muscle to contract and relax as normal, resulting in reduced pain, tension, and offers a return to normal function.
There are a few different trigger point Dry Needling techniques that may be used, depending on the severity of the condition;
Superficial Dry Needling
Superficial Dry Needling is done at depths of around 5-10mm with the needle inserted for approximately 30 seconds. The practitioner then palpates the area to determine the level of response. If the practitioner determines that the treatment was insufficient in alleviating pain, it will be repeated.
The piston technique involves the practitioner quickly inserting and partially removing needles into the affected area, almost in a pecking motion. Needles are inserted but not left for a duration of time like with superficial Dry Needling.
Non-Trigger Point Dry Needling
In non-trigger point Dry Needling, needles are inserted into the surrounding area, rather than directly into the affected area. This technique is commonly used on more delicate areas such as the lower back.
How Many Dry Needling Sessions for Plantar Fasciitis are Needed?
Whilst some studies report that Dry Needling is more effective for plantar fasciitis with long-term treatment, others report that the condition can be treated in two weeks with one session per week.
This is in line with typical Dry Needling session requirements for musculoskeletal conditions; on average patients tend to feel the benefits of Dry Needling almost immediately, however long-term benefits are achieved after a minimum of 3 treatments.
Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis
Acupuncture and Dry Needling may seem similar, but it’s important to recognise that they are not the same thing. As plantar fasciitis is a myofascial trigger point, Dry Needling is the more appropriate treatment.
Does Dry Needling for Plantar Fasciitis Have any Side Effects?
Both Acupuncture and Dry Needling have minimal side effects. In fact, in most cases, the worst that happens is bruising, bleeding and tenderness at the needle site and some patients report feeling dizzy or lightheaded after treatment.
These side effects are typically mild and short-lived when they do appear, but there are a few contraindications to be aware of that could result in more severe side effects:
- Use of particular needling points on pregnant women
- Use of Dry Needling on clients with uncontrollable movements
- Use of Dry Needling on clients with spinal instability
- The needling of scars, keloid, recent wounds, or skin with sensory deficit
- Use of Dry Needling on clients with blood disorders, or those on anticoagulant medication
- Use of Dry Needling on clients with a pacemaker
Learn more about the safety of Acupuncture and Dry Needling, as well as the potential side effects in our blog, Is Acupuncture Safe?.
Dry Needling is thought to be an effective way of treating the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, particularly in patients where traditional treatment methods have proven insufficient, and for those that want to avoid more invasive procedures.
If you’re a healthcare professional interested in introducing Acupuncture or Dry Needling to your practice, Breeze Academy offers a number of courses across the UK that provide you with everything you need to confidently and competently practise. Learn more online today, or get in touch for further information.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia - the part of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. The condition usually causes a stabbing pain that runs across the bottom of the foot, often first thing in the morning and after long periods of inactivity. It is a common condition found in runners and in people that are overweight.
What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain across the bottom of the foot. It is typically worse in the morning, or after periods of inactivity, but will usually subside after taking a few steps.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
The exact cause of plantar fasciitis is unknown, however it more commonly occurs in people that are overweight and in runners as excessive tension and stress of the fascia can cause small tears and inflammation. Risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis include:
- Certain types of exercise
- Foot mechanics
- Manual occupations