Plantar Fasciitis: Healing Painful Heels

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Suzy-Cohen-1_2Dear Pharmacist,

I have plantar fasciitis causing terrible heel pain and my doctor says it will take a year to heal. Is there anything I can do to speed that up?  –P.D., Sanibel, Florida

Answer: You have my sympathy because I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis myself for the past three months. It’s the price I paid for stomping too hard in Zumba class.

Plantar fasciitis is usually caused by a pulling of the long ligament, the plantar fascia, which runs along the bottom of your foot. It may hurt all the time, or just act up while walking and running. The inflammation announces itself as a dull or stabbing pain. When it flares up, it can feel like you’ve planted your heels on a sharp knife!

Typically, doctors recommend applying ice and taking oral anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen, or injections of corticosteroids. Getting off your feet certainly helps! You can get custom-made orthotics from your podiatrist (or other physician) which insert into your shoes and offer more support for your feet. I bought an inexpensive gel insert at my local pharmacy and that helped a little bit. You can learn some exercises to stretch out and relax the inflamed tissues in your feet.

So, there you have the typical treatment experience includes medications, stretching exercise, orthotics and ice packs. Wearing supportive shoes are important. While I don’t recommend this for everyone, I personally found that wearing high heels takes the pressure off my heel, and puts it on the ball of my foot. For a while, it was the only way I could find relief, but this does not work for most people, especially men, lol. The stretching, ice packs and yoga helped me, but my best relief might surprise you. It was acupuncture. Seriously! You would think heel pain was enough, but imagine needles going into the area! Well no joke, this did the trick for me.

And a study confirms what I already know. Scientists in Greece at the University of Athens published their findings last summer. They tested two groups of athletes with plantar fasciitis. Both groups received conventional treatments, but only one group received acupuncture. Those who got needled experienced significantly more relief after just a matter of weeks. The researchers concluded that “acupuncture should be considered as a major therapeutic instrument for the decrease of heel pain, combined with traditional medical approaches.”

The earlier you begin acupuncture, the better. You can locate an acupuncturist at or ask your doctor for a recommendation. If you have access to a chiropractor or physical therapist, ultrasound is beneficial. I also believe in herbs such as calendula, ginger, bromelain and turmeric as dietary supplements. You can massage the area with arnica cream too.

Did You Know? 
Pregnant women in the US who want to know if they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome can now take a blood test called MaterniT21 rather than doing amniocentesis.