When you read the term “heel spur” you likely picture a painful foot condition, with sharp shooting or chronic pain. This would be an accurate description of the common condition known as a heel spur– on some occasions–, while in others they are painless. Read on to learn more about heel spurs, their causes and treatment options.
What is a Heel Spur?
A heel spur is medically caused when the heel bone extends past its normal boundaries and forms bony protrusions. Some heel spurs have protruded up to half an inch and have been seen on X-Ray. This is caused by the buildup of calcium deposits. It doesn’t happen all at once and often takes months to build up. If you do not have access to an X-Ray to diagnosis your heel spur, your doctor will consider the symptoms and common causes.
They are most common among athletes and people who do a lot of running. They are typically caused by stretching of the plantar fascia or tearing of the heel bone membrane. This can also be caused by small fragments of bone breaking off one section of the foot, attaching onto the back of the foot.
In many cases, your condition is then called “heel spur syndrome”. Heel spurs are often associated with the extremely painful condition known as plantar fasciitis. This is the inflammation of the connective tissue that is situated across the bottom of the foot, which serves to connect the ball of the foot and the heel bone.
Common Symptoms Associated With Heel Spurs
The following are the most common symptoms associated with heel spurs.
- In some cases, there are no discernable symptoms of heel spurs
- Chronic or intermittent pain – This is often experienced when you are running, jogging, walking or if the area becomes inflamed
- Feeling as if a pin or knife is stabbing the bottom of the foot – This is often experienced first thing in the morning
- Dull ache that it interwoven with sharp stabs of pain
- The pain attributed to heel spurs is often not the result of the condition itself but the soft-tissue injury in which its associated
Common Causes of Heel Spurs
In general, heel spurs occur when the foot ligaments and muscles are strained repetitively, causing the membrane that covers the heel bone to be torn. This makes heel spurs especially common among athletes who regularly jump or run. However, heel spurs can also be caused by the following:
- Gait issue, meaning when you walk, you place too much stress on the nerves, ligaments near the heel and the heel bone
- Poorly fitting or worn out shoes that do not provide enough support
- Being overweight
- Heel bruise
- Walking, jumping or running on hard surfaces, spending long periods of time on your feet daily for work
- High arches or flat feet
- Having plantar fasciitis – The Mayo Clinic explains that over half of all those who have heel spurs currently also have plantar fasciitis, which of course, adds to these two conditions being closely associated.
- Age – Younger individuals also suffer from heel spurs, but the pain associated with the condition usually intensifies in aging.
When You Need to Seek Help For Heel Spurs?
Heel spurs don’t occur overnight. In addition, most painful heel spurs only occur because minor symptoms were ignored, and treatment was not sought. In general, if you have had heel pain that has persisted regularly for over a month, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist like the professionals at Red Mountain Footcare. They will likely suggest one of the following types of treatments for your heel spurs:
Non-Surgical Treatment for Heel Spurs
- Orthotic devices or shoe inserts – If your heel spurs are caused by a gait issue or a flat foot, a shoe insert can alleviate your heel spur.
- Night splints – to keep the foot stretched out, which may make the foot less painful in the morning
- Physical therapy and/or stretching exercises to counteract the issue
- Strapping or taping to rest overly stressed tendons or muscles
- Shoe recommendations – to ensure you are getting enough support when performing various athletic activities or are standing for too long
- Over the counter medication – such as Aleve, Advil or Tylenol to alleviate the pain associated with the condition
- Corticosteroid shot – to reduce inflammation in and around the area
Here are some home remedies that may be able to help with the pain:
- Soaking your feet in an epsom salt bath
- An apple cider vinegar bath
- Applying an ice pack to the affected area
Foot Exercises to Help Relieve Heel Spur Pain or Reverse Spur Growth
- One exercise has the ball of the foot against the wall while balance is maintained on the heel of the foot. The individual then shifts their weight towards the wall, causing a rubbing of the heel spur.
- Other exercises and stretches may also be performed that can help loosen and relax muscles and tendons in the feet, relieving pain.
Surgical Treatment Options For Heel Spurs
According to WebMD, some 90% of all patients suffering with heel spurs will improve without surgical treatments. However, when several treatment options fail and patients have been dealing with pain associated with heel spurs for between 9 and 12 months, surgery may be deemed necessary in order to restore mobility and reduce pain. Pre-surgical tests are performed to determine if a specific patient would be a good candidate for a surgical procedure. The two main types of surgical procedures associated with heel spurs are:
- Removal of the spur itself to restore proper function of the foot
- Release of the part of the foot called the plantar fascia
In general, post-surgical care will include elevation of your feet, keeping weight off your foot, compression, ice and rest. It is sometimes necessary for patients to use surgical shoes, canes, crutches or bandages post-surgery.
How to Prevent The Formation of Heel Spurs
Of course, as with all things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s best to keep heel spurs from forming in the first place if possible. Follow the tips listed below to reduce your risk of getting heel spurs:
- Wear shock-absorbent soles in your shoes, especially when running, jumping or being on your feet on hard surfaces
- Make sure your shoes fit your physical activity – Wear hiking boots to hike, running shoes to run, etc. in order to protect your heels from injury
- Warm up and stretch before performing any physical activity and try not to push yourself during the activity beyond your abilities
- Make sure your shoes fit you well and provide the support you need
- Lose weight if you currently are overweight
Contact us at Red Mountain Footcare to learn more about heel spurs and what we can do to help you with this pesky, sometimes downright painful condition. Schedule your appointment online. We offer the latest in diagnostic and treatment technology to meet your needs.