Eighteen patients attending an orthopaedic outpatient clinic with a year or more's history of heel pain due to plantar fasciitis were studied. All had had conservative treatment of physiotherapy and shoe-support without significant pain relief before acupuncture was offered, and thus acted as their own controls for the purposes of the study. The following traditional points were needled: Taixi (KI.3), Kunlun (BL.60) and Sanyinjiao (SP.6). Pain was assessed by a 100mm visual analogue scale (VAS) before treatment was started and after four, weekly sessions of acupuncture treatment. If complete pain relief was not obtained by the initial four-week treatment, a further two, weekly sessions of the above mentioned acupoints, with the addition of trigger point acupuncture in the gastro-soleus and plantar fascia, was carried out and pain assessed.
Patients were also assessed with a verbal rating score to indicate the percentage improvement after acupuncture compared to before treatment. The mean duration of heel pain was 25.11 months (SD 10.68). The VAS data obtained at 4 and 6 weeks of acupuncture treatment showed a statistically highly significant improvement compared to the VAS before acupuncture (p < 0.0009 and p < 0.0001 respectively). Using the Mann-Whitney test, there was a statistically significant difference in VAS obtained at 6 weeks, after trigger point acupuncture had been added for poor responders, compared to that obtained after the first 4 weeks of acupuncture treatment (p < 0.047). Our study demonstrates that acupuncture is effective in treating patients with chronic heel pain due to plantar fasciitis and that the addition of trigger point acupuncture in poor or non-responders may be useful.
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