When to Consider Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition in which the supportive tissue running under your foot, from your heel to the base of your toes, becomes irritated. Because this pain-causing diagnosis can be stubborn to manage, many people who have it look for alternative treatment options.

Acupuncture is one potential solution. In traditional Chinese medicine, the body has a series of meridians/channels for a constant flow of energy (qi). Acupuncture points are considered access points to this energy flow.

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine needles into acupuncture points in an effort to restore the normal flow of qi in an area and improve your overall health. This article will discuss the benefits of using acupuncture as a part of an integrated approach to treating plantar fasciitis.

Person receiving acupuncture for plantar fasciitis

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Quick Facts About Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common disorders affecting the foot. This condition occurs when the plantar fascia, which is designed to absorb the constant forces that travel through the arch of the foot, becomes overloaded.

When the bottom of the foot is repetitively subjected to high amounts of strain, it leads to ligament degeneration and, ultimately, to pain and inflammation. The most common symptom of this condition is heel pain, which is the worst first thing in the morning or after a long day of activity.

While anyone can get plantar fasciitis, people with obesity, tight calf muscles, very high arches, or who participate in repetitive activities are more prone to it.

This disorder is most commonly treated conservatively with physical therapy focusing on foot and ankle flexibility and relieving pain.

Orthotics (specially fabricated shoe inserts to protect the foot and correct foot positioning), night splints (hold the foot in a flexed position at night), and anti-inflammatory medications may also be used.

Potential Benefits of Acupuncture

While the benefits of acupuncture and the reasons it is effective are still being studied, some evidence suggests that it is beneficial for treating plantar fasciitis.

One review of available medical research found significant pain improvements in people who had acupuncture for the condition compared to people who received more standard treatments (like stretching, orthotics, and strengthening).

The same review also found pain benefits when comparing acupuncture to a sham, or placebo, version of the treatment, further reinforcing its value. It is worth noting that the pain improvements seemed to be relatively short-lived, with most occurring in the first four to eight weeks of the intervention.

Another review of medical literature found that acupuncture helped alleviate heel pain and improve daily function when combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen). Interestingly, the review also found that acupuncture's benefits were comparable to those of traditional treatments like night splints, stretching, and pain-relieving medication.

Talk to a Healthcare Provider

Speak to a healthcare provider prior to undergoing acupuncture if you have a bleeding disorder, are on blood thinner medication, or are pregnant.

Side Effects

While using acupuncture for plantar fasciitis relief can be beneficial, it is important to remember there are several potential side effects. These include:

  • Pain or bleeding in the area that is needled
  • Bruising or skin discoloration
  • Allergic reaction or contact dermatitis (an itchy red rash)
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Nausea or vomiting

Despite these potential risks, the chances of a serious adverse side effect are relatively low when undergoing acupuncture on your foot. Your risk can be further decreased by seeking the care of an acupuncturist certified by a professional organization.

Acupuncture Points and Sensation

The ways that acupuncture works are not yet completely understood. While traditional Chinese medicine states that the benefits arise from the treatment’s effect on the body’s qi, the physiological actions are still under investigation.

Inserting a needle into one of the body’s acupuncture points stimulates the central nervous system. This, in turn, leads to the release of chemicals in the brain, spinal cord, and muscles that may promote healing. These same substances may also reduce the body’s sensation of pain.

Number of Sessions for Relief

The amount of time that acupuncture takes to provide pain relief can vary from person to person. One review of the evidence found that treating plantar fasciitis weekly with acupuncture produced significant pain relief after four to eight weeks.

This corresponds to another review of medical literature that included a study showing significantly improved pain levels in people undergoing weekly acupuncture sessions for four weeks.

Costs and Insurance Coverage

The costs of undergoing acupuncture treatment vary based on your health insurance coverage. While some plans have benefits for the treatment, it is still somewhat rare for insurance to cover this service.

When ordered by a healthcare provider, acupuncture sessions are eligible to be paid for with a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). In addition, many clinics provide a discounted rate if you pay out of pocket and may also provide financial assistance for people with lower incomes.

Finding a Licensed Acupuncturist Near You

While searching the Internet for an acupuncturist near you is easy, it is important to ensure that your provider is fully licensed. Most states have a professional licensure department website with a credential-checking search to help you find out.

In addition, several different national organizations provide acupuncture certifications. This nonmandatory designation recognizes individuals who have completed additional education in anatomy and evidence-based treatment techniques.

Many of these professional organizations (including the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the American Society of Acupuncturists) have a search feature that helps you find providers with this type of designation.

The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture is made up of Western-trained physicians who have completed additional training in acupuncture through an accredited certification program. They have a referral directory.


Acupuncture is the traditional Chinese practice of inserting fine needles into pressure points in the body to alleviate pain and stimulate healing. This treatment has been shown to provide short-term pain relief for plantar fasciitis.

While there are some potential side effects, the risks of treating the foot with this intervention are relatively low. Verifying that your acupuncturist is licensed and potentially certified will help ensure a safe treatment.  

A Word From Verywell

If you are dealing with plantar fasciitis, every step can remind you of how painful the condition is. Taking an integrative approach to treating this issue can help accelerate your symptom relief. If you are coping with heel pain, be sure to speak to a healthcare provider about the potential benefits of acupuncture.

While this therapy is only one method of providing relief, it may be useful in alleviating your pain and returning you to the activities you love.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does acupuncture for plantar fasciitis provide immediate relief?

    You may experience some immediate relief after a session of acupuncture. That said, one review of medical evidence found that it may take four to eight weeks before significant pain reduction occurs. In this research, the symptom improvement seemed to plateau (remain at the same level) after the eighth week.

  • What are other natural ways to get rid of plantar fasciitis?

    Aside from acupuncture, there are several other non-medicinal ways to get rid of plantar fasciitis. These include resting from irritating activities, using an orthotic or a night splint, and icing the painful area. Regular stretching of the calf and plantar fascia is also very beneficial.

  • How long does plantar fasciitis take to heal?

    Plantar fasciitis can be a pesky condition. In 90% of people, the symptoms will be improved within 10 months of starting treatment. Acupuncture may help accelerate this improvement, with studies showing pain reduction within one to two months of receiving it.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Plantar fasciitis and bone spurs.

  3. Thiagarajah AG. How effective is acupuncture for reducing pain due to plantar fasciitis?. Singapore Med J. 2017;58(2):92-97. doi:10.11622/smedj.2016143

  4. Clark RJ, Tighe M. The effectiveness of acupuncture for plantar heel pain: a systematic review. Acupunct Med. 2012;30(4):298-306. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2012-010183

  5. Chan MWC, Wu XY, Wu JCY, Wong SYS, Chung VCH. Safety of acupuncture: overview of systematic reviewsSci Rep. 2017;7(1):3369. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-03272-0

  6. Chen T, Zhang WW, Chu YX, Wang YQ. Acupuncture for pain management: molecular mechanisms of action. Am J Chin Med. 2020;48(4):793-811. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X20500408

By Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS
Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS, is a board-certified orthopedic specialist who has practiced as a physical therapist for more than a decade.