Heel spurs are calcium deposits that form at the bottom or back of the heel bone. As they grow, they effectively become an extension or outgrowth of the heel bone.
Many people who have heel spurs do not even know that they have them unless they find themselves needing a foot x-ray for some unrelated reason.
For other people, heel spurs cause pain. The pain can be mild enough to be only annoying — or it could be serious enough to limit a person’s mobility. For such people, learning to treat and manage heel spurs allows them to live fuller, more pain-free lives.
How heel spurs occur
Like all bone spurs, it is an outgrowth that is triggered by the inflammation of the soft tissue that surrounds the bone. In the case of a heel spur, the surrounding tissue is the plantar fascia. This is the reason why heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis. So what causes the soft tissue that surrounds the heel bone to become inflamed?
Causes and risk factors
In a nutshell, a heel spur is triggered by a stress injury to the surrounding soft tissue. In most cases, this soft tissue is the plantar fascia, its tendons and its ligaments. Here are some of the ways that they strain and become inflamed:
- When a person stays on their feet all day
- Running or exercising on hard ground, every day
- Having an unusual walking gait
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes
- Having an illness that causes the soft tissues to become inflamed
- Being overweight
Luckily, most of the causes of heel spurs can be avoided. Meaning that to prevent heel spurs, all a person has to do is change certain behaviors.
Symptoms of heel spurs
Telltale symptoms of heel spurs are:
- Pain when a person walks after a period of inactivity
- When the spur is at the back of the heel, a person will feel pain as their heel lifts from the ground with each step
- If the spur is at the bottom of the heel, a person will feel pain when they step on the heel
- The heel may be tender, red and swollen
Treatment for heel spurs
Most foot specialists will advise their patients to choose a conservative approach to treatment. That means treating the root cause of the heel spur, which is inflammation. By removing the inflammation, there is a high chance that the bone spur will resolve itself and stop causing pain. Some popular home remedies include the daily application of ice or a cold compress to the heel, stretching exercises to flex the muscles of the foot, and the use of foot splints at night. This prevents the foot from aching when a person wakes up in the morning.
If these home remedies are not effective, a podiatrist may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy to manage and eventually eliminate inflammation. They may also suggest the use of shoe inserts or orthotic devices to cushion the heel and correct an abnormal gait, as well as the limited use of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
If the heel spur fails to go away after more conservative treatment plans, a podiatrist may recommend surgery to remove the heel spur. This is often the last resort, due to the risk of recurrence and possible nerve damage.
Treatment starts with the right diagnosis
If you are dealing with heel pain, come see us at our practice. Our foot specialist will examine your foot to confirm if you indeed have a heel spur. With the right diagnosis, our podiatrist will create a treatment plan that will help manage and treat your bone spur.
Request an appointment here: https://www.pocatellopodiatry.com or call Ambulatory Foot & Ankle Clinic at (208) 803-0010 for an appointment in our Pocatello office.
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