A heel spur is a deposit of calcium on the heel bone. This calcification takes the form of a bony protrusion, which can cause considerable pain when standing and walking. This foot problem is closely
related to plantar fasciitis, a condition in which the band of fibrous tissue on the bottom of the foot becomes over-stressed. It pulls away from the heel and causes the calcium deposits to form. For
this reason, treating a heel spur involves treating the plantar fascia as well.
Athletes who participate in sports that involve a significant amount of jumping and running on hard surfaces are most likely to suffer from heel spurs. Some other risk factors include poor form while
walking which can lead to undue stress on the heel and its nerves and ligaments. Shoes that are not properly fitted for the wearer?s feet. Poor arch support in footwear. Being overweight. Occupations
that require a lot of standing or walking. Reduced flexibility and the thinning of the fat pad along the bottom of the heel, both of which are a typical depreciation that comes with aging.
Heel spurs can be quite painful, but can just as likely occur with no symptoms at all. Plantar fasciitis is a contributing condition to heel spurs. The cause of the pain is not the heel spur itself
but the soft-tissue injury associated with it. The feeling has been described as a knife or pin sticking into the bottom of your feet when you first stand up after sitting or laying down for a long
period of time - a pain that later turns into a dull ache.
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
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are treated by measures that decrease the associated inflammation and avoid reinjury. Local ice applications both reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy
methods, including stretching exercises, are used to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or injections of cortisone, are often helpful. Orthotic
devices or shoe inserts are used to take pressure off plantar spurs (donut-shaped insert), and heel lifts can reduce stress on the Achilles tendon to relieve painful spurs at the back of the heel.
Similarly, sports running shoes with soft, cushioned soles can be helpful in reducing irritation of inflamed tissues from both plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Infrequently, surgery is performed on
chronically inflamed spurs.
In a small number of cases (usually less than 5 percent), patients may not experience relief after trying the recommendations listed above. It is important that conservative treatments (such as those
listed above) be performed for AT LEAST a year before considering surgery. Time is important in curing the pain from heel spurs, and insufficient treatment before surgery may subject you to potential
complications from the procedure. If these treatments fail, your doctor may consider an operation to loosen the plantar fascia, called a plantar fascia release.
If you have not yet developed this condition, you can take steps to protect yourself from it. Most importantly, make it a rule to wear properly fitted footwear. Avoid shoes that have become worn down
in the heel, and don't choose shoes that cause you to walk in an abnormal fashion. Maintaining a healthy weight will ensure that undue pressure isn't being put on the ligaments, tendons and bones of
your feet. If your job requires a great deal of time on your feet, or if you exercise regularly, be sure to balance periods of activity with periods of rest for your feet.