Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Can Chiropractic Adjustments
Cure Plantar Fasciitis?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I developed a bone spur and plantar fasciitis about eight months ago, most likely from running hills, but I guess my foot also pronates.My regular doctor recommended staying off my foot as much as possible, doing various stretches, ice, and ibuprofen. After doing that for three months, it still began to hurt again if I ran or even walked even half a mile. Iâm still staying off it (biking instead of walking, elliptical machine instead of running), but I'd sure like to be back to normal.

A chiropractor I met tells me that he can cure me in 10 adjustments. Is that possible? Or do you think I should see an orthopedist instead?

Answer

No chiropractic adjustment can cure a bone spur or plantar fasciitis. It often takes many months to get over acute plantar fasciitis. The measures recommended by your doctor—rest, stretching, ice, ibuprofen, riding a bicycle instead of running, and so on—are part of a long-range program that requires time and patience.

Plantar fasciitis and calcaneal spur formation are often the result of excessive pulling or stretching of the plantar fascia where it attaches to the periosteum (cartilage) that covers the surface of the heel bone. Early development of a spur may be more painful than a large spur that has been present for a long time. Itâs possible to have a heel spur without symptoms once the acute pain subsides. But it might always be necessary to ease up on the plantar stretching involved in running up hills.

When pain is severe or prolonged, you might need an orthopedist or a podiatrist to inject steroids and pain medication into the painful area of the heel. Strapping to relieve tension on the plantar fascia, or special shoes or orthotic devices to control abnormal foot postures, might be helpful.

While some chiropractors might be able to offer advice or physical treatment (such as ultrasound) for plantar fasciitis, they cannot offer prescription medication or injections for acute, prolonged plantar fasciitis, which is often debilitating. So I would opt for the care of an orthopedist or a podiatrist rather than the "cure" promised by 10 chiropractic adjustments.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This page was posted on July 18, 2002.