Have you considered acupuncture as a treatment?
Many people shudder at the thought of having someone stick multiple needles in them, which is a logical thought to have. When it comes to acupuncture however, the aim of this article is to highlight why it’s not as scary as you may think, and why it could be a really good decision in your quest to alleviate foot and lower limb pain.
Acupuncture is believed to have a positive effect on the body with the promotion of healing and pain reduction in a local area, along with a reduction in pain in the body overall and a general feeling of calm and wellbeing. It is also used effectively in myofascial trigger points and muscle tightness; this is often referred to as dry needling. Trigger points are a point of hyperirritability that are painful when pressed and reside in the muscle or fascia. They are sometimes felt as a firm bump along a tight band within the muscle. This in turn can cause referred pain away from the trigger point, preventing the muscle from lengthening to its maximum and weakening the muscle. Needling of a trigger point can often mediate a local twitch response of the muscle fibres. Treating these areas can help give a greater range of movement and increase strength within the muscle.
Some other conditions that respond well to acupuncture are plantar heel pain and Achilles tendinopathy, two conditions that can drag on and become a nuisance for the sufferer. Knee pain is also something that I see regularly with runners in particular and although there are many different conditions that present in the knee, I have found acupuncture to be a good accompanying treatment.
What can I expect at an appointment?
If it has been determined that you would benefit from treatment you can expect to have 5-6 needles inserted into your foot/leg. The insertion points can be a mixture of traditional acupuncture points and trigger points. The needles that are used during treatment are extremely fine and most of the time they are unnoticeable on insertion. Some patients may feel a dull ache when the needle hits a trigger point and the muscle can twitch with this contact, but any discomfort is short lived. As the needle is breaking through the skin there is a risk of bleeding however this is rare and minimal at most sites. Some people may experience a “flare” after needles are inserted, where the area around the needle becomes red. This redness soon subsides and is often associated with a good response to the treatment. Light bruising and muscle soreness after treatment is occasionally felt but patients should feel a reduction in pain and more movement in the treated area often immediately.
Benefits of acupuncture/dry needling can often be seen after one treatment but follow on sessions may be required to achieve optimal results. It will often been used in conduction with gentle mobilisation techniques, soft tissue massage and stretching/strengthening exercises. Orthoses may also be advised to help in situations that require further intervention. Overall, acupuncture is proving to be a highly successful option to consider as part of a holistic treatment programme and, in some cases, as a stand alone treatment.