Heel spurs are a common foot problem resulting from excess bone growth on the heel bone. The bone growth is usually located on the underside of the heel bone, extending forward to the toes. One
explanation for this excess production of bone is a painful tearing of the plantar fascia connected between the toes and heel. This can result in either a heel spur or an inflammation of the plantar
fascia, medically termed plantar fascitis. Because this condition is often correlated to a decrease in the arch of the foot, it is more prevalent after the age of six to eight years, when the arch is
Bone spurs can occur all over the body including the spine, shoulders, hands, hips and feet. The feet are a common place to find them. A heel spur happens when the body tries to mend itself. Building
extra bone is one way your body tries to correct a weakness. Wearing shoes that are too tight in the heel can cause bone spurs. More women than men get heel spurs because of the kinds of shoes they
wear. Athletes who stress their feet and legs routinely are also prone to heel spurs. Being overweight can also indirectly cause heel spurs by over-exerting the plantar fascia. Some heel spurs are
caused by the aging process, in which the cartilage covering the ends of bones wears away. This process can lead to pain, swelling and spur formation. Stress-related problems with the plantar fascia
frequently lead to heel spurs.
Pain and discomfort associated with heel spurs does not occur from the spur itself. The bone growth itself has no feeling. However, as you move, this growth digs into sensitive nerves and tissue
along the heel of the foot, resulting in severe pain. Pain can also be generated when pushing off with the toes while walking. Swelling along the heel is also common.
Diagnosis of a heel spur can be done with an x-ray, which will be able to reveal the bony spur. Normally, it occurs where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone. When the plantar fascia
ligament is pulled excessively it begins to pull away from the heel bone. When this excessive pulling occurs, it causes the body to respond by depositing calcium in the injured area, resulting in the
formation of the bone spur. The Plantar fascia ligament is a fibrous band of connective tissue running between the heel bone and the ball of the foot. This structure maintains the arch of the foot
and distributes weight along the foot as we walk. However, due to the stress that this ligament must endure, it can easily become damaged which commonly occurs along with heel spurs.
Non Surgical Treatment
To aid in the reduction of inflammation, applying ice for 10-15 minutes after activities and the use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can be helpful. Corticosteroid
injections may also be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy can be beneficial with the use of heat modalities, such as ultrasound, that create a deep heat and reduce inflammation.
If the pain caused by inflammation is constant, keeping the foot raised above the heart and/or compressed by wrapping with a bandage will help. Taping can help speed the healing process by protecting
the fascia from reinjury, especially during stretching and walking.
When chronic heel pain fails to respond to conservative treatment, surgical treatment may be necessary. Heel surgery can provide pain relief and restore mobility. The type of procedure used is based
on examination and usually consists of releasing the excessive tightness of the plantar fascia, called a plantar fascia release. The procedure may also include removal of heel spurs.
A variety of steps can be taken to avoid heel pain and accompanying afflictions. Wear shoes that fit well-front, back, and sides-and have shock-absorbent soles, rigid shanks, and supportive heel
counters. Wear the proper shoes for each activity. Do not wear shoes with excessive wear on heels or soles. Prepare properly before exercising. Warm up and do stretching exercises before and after
running. Pace yourself when you participate in athletic activities. Don't underestimate your body's need for rest and good nutrition. If obese, lose weight.