I’ve been dealing with plantar irritation and then full-blown plantar fasciitis on and off for 5 months now. About a month ago I stopped by my local running store. I know the staff pretty well (translation: I spend way too much time – and according to my husband – way too much money in there!) and know one of the girls (Tori) also deals with plantar fasciitis issues. I knew she qualified for Boston at the Kiawah Island Marathon in December. (By the by: if you’ve never heard of Kiawah and/or haven’t run Kiawah, sign up now! It’s one of the most beautiful and flat courses out there! I’ve done the half several times and will probably do the 2018 full.) So clearly she was upping her mileage and intensity, and somehow she was doing ok.
Tori told me about the osteopractic PT she had been seeing and the dry needling he was doing. I hadn’t heard of dry needling and thought it was basically acupuncture. The two are close/related, but there are medical differences. The needles are the same, but from what I’m gathering, the insertion points and depth of insertion are different. There are a number of studies out there on the effectiveness of dry needling (and electro acupuncture).
But honestly I didn’t care about any of the details. I’d pretty much try anything at that point. And when Tori said it cleared up her plantar fasciitis issues, I was sold.
The process basically consists of one-time use acupuncture-type needles being inserted into certain trigger points and areas of localized pain in the body. In my case about 5 needles go in along the medial side of my foot, 2 into the bottom of my foot, 2 into my main area of pain – right where the arch of my foot meets the heel bone, and 1 (or more) into the tightest area of my calf. (That last one feels like pins and needles all through my calf. It’s a strange feeling.)
I’ve had 4 needling sessions with him now (he says it typically takes 6-10 for complete symptom relief), and it is the only thing that has helped. After the first session I had about 30% relief. Four sessions in, I can say that I’m about 65-70% better than when I first went to see him. This is no placebo effect. I am legitimately able to move better, I experience less pain, and I’ve had a few moments of “wait, I’ve been walking around for an hour and nothing has hurt!” since starting needling. There is light at the end of this tunnel!
A lot of people have asked whether the dry needling hurts. The answer is no and yes. No, it doesn’t hurt on 7 out of the 10 needles he shoves into my foot & calf. Yes, it hurts on the 3 that are going right into the areas that are causing me problems (that’s two right where the arch of my foot meets the heel bone and one right in the middle of my calf). Those 3 hurt because the whole idea is to disrupt the angry tissue. More blood flow to the tissue, more healing and all of that good stuff. (There’s a lot more science to it, but I’m going to leave the details to the PT – all I care about is that it’s working!)
Here’s what it looks like when I’m all hooked up:
It looks torturous, but honestly, once it’s all hooked up, I don’t feel much besides the twitching of tissue from the current. I stay hooked up for 12 minutes, and then he removes all of the needles (which is pain free). There is no bleeding or minimal bleeding in my trouble spots. There is no pain from where the needles were. The only thing I feel for the rest of the day is some soreness in my calf (like I had a solid lifting session). What I do feel after each session is less and less plantar pain. And that is a win in my book.