Because I used to teach skiing up here in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, I know all about bone spurs and heel spurs. Many a Ski pro with whom I worked complained each winter about the pain they endured thanks to their bone spurs. Now that I am an acupuncturist, I know that you need not be an athlete to be familiar with them too.
Bone spurs, as the name implies are bony outgrowths that can occur anywhere on any bone or tendon in the body. They are most often caused by a gradual build up of bone in response to inflammation due to tendinitis or osteoarthritis. My colleagues in the ski school would often blame poorly fitting ski boots (probably causing friction and inflammation on the foot) for their woes. The medical name for bone spurs is osteophytes and, when symptomatic, their presence can be quite painful. However, many people have bone spurs that cause no pain at all.
For people experiencing pain due to osteophytes, cortisone shots are often recommended to bring down the inflammation, but more often than not, the pain returns. Unfortunately, people are often told that the only other treatment for stubborn and very painful bone spurs is surgery, where the offending spur is cut away.
Here are 2 cases where I successfully treated bone spurs and a similar condition, heel spurs, with acupuncture. In Chinese medicine, we look at such cases as a blockage of circulation in the affected areas. Our needles work to stimulate circulation and bring down inflammation. This helps not only to relieve pain, but it allows the body to heal the area itself.
In the first case, my patient was a competitive skier facing surgery for very painful bone spurs that had accumulated over a few years on the Achilles tendon of each foot. I treated him 3 times and sent him home with a moxa stick to use himself every day. Moxa is a herb that, once lit, sends an infrared quality of heat deep into the tissues. Gently warming the local area with moxa will improve circulation immensely.
He returned a few weeks later, much improved with less pain and surgery seemed no longer necessary. I had the foresight to take photos and the improvement is visible. I learned that a month or so later, his bone spurs completely disappeared and he was pain-free.
By the way, the surgery is routine but requires a long recovery period… here’s an image of what my patient could have undergone, were it not for acupuncture.
|Surgery for heel spur. Long recovery!|
Not just athletes
Another gentleman consulted me immediately after he received a diagnosis of a bone spur on the heel of his left foot . The pain was acute, having suddenly appeared a few days before he saw me. When he arrived at my door he was limping badly. He was a trucker and the pain was threatening his ability to drive and walk and make his deliveries. His spur was situated along the plantar fascia which is the fibrous tissue that connects the heel to the ball of the foot.
In this case I treated him once, attaching electric stimulation to the needles ( see photo below). He left my office with the pain 80% gone and he was able to walk out my door with ease. I saw him 2 days later for a final treatment but he was already 100% better. He was delighted and he promised to return should it ever flare up in the future. It has been 2 years and I learned from one of his relatives that he is still doing the happy dance!
|Acupuncture treatment for heel spur , (acupuncture épine de lenoir)|
The key here is the rapidity with which this man consulted. The earlier we can treat, the better and quicker the outcome. In both cases acupuncture was able to stimulate the blood circulation enough to reduce the inflammation and allow the body’s own healing to take place. When you consider that everything our bodies need to heal is found in our blood, it’s easy to understand how valuable acupuncture can be for bone and heel spurs.
Rosemary McDonough, L.Ac June, 2014