Foot Pain

Foot Pain and Chinese Medicine

Six main acupuncture channels run through the foot including the Kidney, Bladder, Spleen, Stomach, Liver and Gallbladders meridians. Depending on where the pain is located, one can use acupressure points above and below the areas of pain on the related channels to help break up Blood and Qi Stagnation causing pain according to Chinese medicineFor best outcomes using self-care, combine associated Acupressure Sticks™ to acu-points, organic herbstopical remedies, and good lifestyle practices.

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Acupressure for Foot Painessential oils for acupressure

Find the related Channels and Acupressure Directions Here!


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Plantar Fasciitis and Instep-Arch Painplantar fasciitis foot soak with essential oils

Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue made up mostly of collagen that covers each organ and muscle in the body. It can become inflamed for many reasons including strain or repetitive motions. The arch and heel of the foot is especially vulnerable to injury and resulting “plantar fasciitis”. In Chinese medicine, we see this inflammation causing Blood and Qi Stagnation (congealed, sticky fluid from metabolic waste accumulation). Additionally, three main channels related to the energetic systems Liver, Spleen, and Kidney traverse the foot; a deficiency or imbalance in one or more of these systems may lead to a disposition for foot injury from trauma or repetitive stress.

Topical herbal remedies and acupressure can be applied to break up these sticky accumulations that cause a decrease in oxygen flow, spasms, and pain of the foot. Organic herbal formulas can be used to restore organ-level health that may be the root cause of the pain; topical remedies will only provide immediate temporary pain relief if plantar fasciitis has its’ origin in organ-level deficiencies. 

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Achilles Tendinitis Causing Ankle and Heel PainOrganic Chinese Herbs for Pain

Similar to fascia, tendons are made of collagen tissue, but are in the form of a cord that attaches muscle to a bone rather than a thin sheet. Likewise, injury or repetitive stress can result in Blood and Qi stagnation, inflammation, and pain. Chronic stress of the connective tissues and muscles results in over-stimulation to the nerves in the areas. Topical herbal remedies and acupressure stimulate an increase of blood, lymph, and fluid circulation. This helps to drain calcium, lymph fluid, and metabolic waste. This allows for new oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to help flush out sticky accumulations.

Tendons are closely associated with the Liver energetic system in Chinese medicine. The Achilles tendon is in the proximity of the Kidney and paired Bladder channels. Therefore, one must determine if Liver imbalances or Kidney Deficiency are at the root of injury susceptibility in this area as topical remedies will only provide immediate temporary pain relief if your chronic tendinitis has resulted from organ-level deficiencies. Consider our organic Great Mender formula that breaks up Blood and Qi Stagnation causing pain in the anywhere in body.

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Kidney Yang Deficiency and Cold Feetkidney yang organic herbal tonic formula

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), coldness in the limbs can be an indication of Kidney Yang Deficiency most commonly resulting in feet that can’t get warm. Kidney Deficiency becomes more common as we age and can also cause hair loss, fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and depressionConsider our organic Ancestor Treasure Yang formula used with our organic Yin Valley formula!

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Spleen-Kidney Deficiency Leading to Gout and Big Sore Toe

In Chinese medicine gout is the result of chronic deficiencies that develop over a longgout foot pain soak with essential oils period of time; this is hard to conceptualize at first because the nature of gout pain is to come on suddenly just like acute conditions. This is because the resulting uric acid build up in joints happens only after the organs have deteriorated to the point where they cannot properly eliminate a substance that is typically discarded through our urine. Consider our organic Sage Mountain formula!

The sudden onset of a red, hot, swollen, and painful joint may indicate gout, but could also be something more serious; inflammatory arthritis, infection, or trauma would require immediate medical attention. Gout often begins with sharp pain and inflammation in the big right toe, but as it becomes chronic it will spread to other joints. Typically, herbs that help to speed the elimination of gout are used initially while tonic herbs address deeper metabolic level imbalances.

Related Article: How to address gout with Chinese herbs

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Liver Qi Stagnation and Drawing Up of Toesfree and easy wanderer organic chinese herbal formula

The Wood Element which includes the Liver in TCM governs over the tendons. If chronic Liver constraints are allowed to continue unchecked, Liver Yin Deficiency and Liver Blood Deficiency will occur and the tendons will not be nourished. This drying of the tendons is evident by toes in middle aged and the elderly that appear to be tightening and drawing up. Consider our organic Free and Easy Wanderer formula!

Blood Stagnation and Numbness of the Feet

In Chinese medicine, numbness would be an indication of Blood Stagnation. In western medicine, numbness in both feet is known as peripheral neuropathy, caused most commonly by diabetes, chronic alcoholism, or a side effect of chemotherapy.  Blood moving herbs help to “quicken the Blood” and break up Blood Stagnation thus improving circulation. Consider our organic Blood Mansion formula!

Blood and Qi Stagnation Leading to Numbness in Just One Foot

If you're experiencing neuroma, or numbness in only one foot, it could be due to a pinched nerve in the foot, ankle or back. Chinese medicine often addresses pinched nerves utilizing acupuncture and Chinese herbs that break up Blood and Qi Stagnation along the acupuncture channels. 

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Spleen Qi Deficiency Causing Bunions

In TCM, bunions are caused by turbid Phlegm accumulations from long-standing Internal Dampness caused restore-the-middle-way-organic herbal spleen tonicby Spleen Qi Deficiency. Two of the most significant Spleen acupuncture points, Spleen 2 and Spleen 3 sit atop the area where bunions form, further indicated Spleen imbalances. Many people have a genetic disposition to Spleen issues, or they can develop through poor diet and lifestyle habits. While a fully formed bunion may require surgery to remove it, a bunion is a sign that the Spleen energetic system needs to be tonified and nourished before more serious disease patterns develop, or to keep more bunions from developing. Consider our organic Restore the Middle Way formula!

Internal Dampness Causing Fungal infection

Fungus depend on the correct environment to develop, and cannot thrive without Dampness; this is true on a log out in the woods, and it is true on and in your body. Applying anti-fungal cream and keeping your feet and socks dry will usually result in temporary relief from athlete’s foot and toenail fungal infections, but will typically return if the Internal Dampness is not resolved. Consider our organic Restore the Middle Way formula!

Spleen Qi Deficiency- Blood Stagnation Causing Wounds to Heal Slowly

Sores that will not heal up over weeks and months on feet can be serious signs of diseases that should be checked out by your MD such as diabetes and skin cancer. Even with such serious disease patterns, herbal therapy can be utilized to speed healing, increase circulation, and promote tissue repair. Thick-cracked heels would also point towards Spleen Imbalances and digestive issues. Consider our organic Restore the Middle Way formula!

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Kidney Yin Deficiency Causing Cramping

While some see leg and foot cramps as a sign of dehydration, drinking water alone may not clear this aggravating pain. This is because Yin Deficiency indicates chronic dryness and requires Yin tonic herbs to correct generally. Foot and leg cramps could also indicate poor nutritional habits leading to potassium, magnesium, and calcium deficiencies. With chronic cramping you should consult with your MD as they can be a sign of circulation issues or even nerve damage. Consider our organic Yin Valley formula!

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Other Common Causes of Foot Problems

Lung-Heart Imbalances Causing Hairless Feet and Toes

In western medicine, hairless feet may simply indicate poor Blood circulation, but it is a lot more complicated according to Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine, the Lung energetic organ is part of the Metal Element and governs over the skin and body hair. The Heart is responsible for circulating Blood in both western and eastern medicine, but in TCM, the Lung and Heart are VERY closely related. In any case, you may see patterns of Lung Deficiency in those who also have hairless toes and poor circulation.

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Day J. Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis with the Yuan-Luo Point Pair: A Clinical Case Report. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2019;12(6):192‐196. doi:10.1016/j.jams.2019.05.003

Lee M, Li H, Liu D. Acupuncture as adjuvant therapy for diabetic foot: A protocol for systematic review. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020;99(12):e19502. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000019502

Sajadi S, Kazemi M, Bakhtar B, Ostadebrahimi H. Comparing the effects of auricular seed acupressure and foot reflexology on neonatal abstinence syndrome: A modified double blind clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019;36:72‐76. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.06.002

Wang Y, Cao HJ, Wang LQ, et al. The effects of Chinese herbal medicines for treating diabetic foot ulcers: A systematic review of 49 randomized controlled trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;44:32‐43. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.03.007

Fu Q, Yang H, Zhang L, et al. Traditional Chinese medicine foot bath combined with acupoint massage for the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 31 RCTs. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2020;36(2):e3218. doi:10.1002/dmrr.3218

dr catherine browne herbalist

Dr. Browne's Shared Insights and Experiences

One of my early patients was a gentleman who sliced his Achilles tendon completely through-and-through just above his ankle when his waterski broke and severely severed his leg. His surgeon at Duke University stitched him back together but his foot began to turn gangrene after the surgery. Hoping to save his foot, he came to me after reading that Chinese medicine would increase the circulation in the area. The color began returning to normal within just a few weeks. His doctor confirmed that his circulation had improved, and the amputation could be postponed; both agreed it had to be a result of the acupuncture, foot soaks, and herbal supplements that I prescribed to him. While he was never able to waterski again, the foot was saved, and he was able to walk without a cane after about six months of regular therapy.