Heel spurs are tiny protruding calcium deposits that can develop near the base of your heel bone. They can be caused by repetitive activities, such as dancing or running, or they can form in
association with plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the ligament (plantar fascia) on the bottom of your foot. When the plantar fascia is tight and pulls on your heel bone, the bone
releases calcium to try to heal itself. The excess deposits of calcium can sometimes form heel spurs.
A major cause of heel spur pain comes from the development of new fibrous tissue around the bony spur, which acts as a cushion over the area of stress. As this tissue grows, a callus forms and takes
up even more space than the heel spur, leading to less space for the thick surrounding network of tendons, nerves, ligaments and supporting tissue. These important structures in the foot have limited
space because of calcium or tissue buildup, which leads to swelling and redness of the foot, and a deep throbbing pain worsened with exercise.
Most people think that a bone "spur" is sharp and produces pain by pressing on tissue, when in fact, these bony growths are usually smooth and flat. Although they rarely cause pain on their own, bone
spurs in the feet can lead to callus formation as tissue builds up to provide added cushion over the area of stress. Over time, wear and tear on joints may cause these spurs to compress neighboring
ligaments, tendons or nerves, thus injuring tissue and causing swelling, pain and tearing.
The proper diagnosis of a heel spur often requires an X-ray. To make this process as convenient for his patients as possible, most clinics have an on-site digital X-ray and diagnostic ultrasound
machines. This can make it unnecessary for patients to visit diagnostic imaging centers, allowing patients to receive more expedient treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bone spurs rarely require treatment unless they are causing frequent pain or damaging other tissues. Because heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are so closely related, they are usually treated the same
way. Symptomatic treatment involves rest, especially from the activity that is contributing to the condition and making symptoms worse (although this may not be easy to discover, as problems can
manifest several hours or days after the harmful activity has occurred). If you identify the offending activity, ice is recommended immediately following it. Stretching of the calf muscles after a
short warm up is also a good idea and can be helpful. Stretching exercises that gently lengthen the calm muscle will relax the tissue surrounding the heel and should be done several times a day,
especially in the morning and after prolonged sitting.
Surgery is used a very small percentage of the time. It is usually considered after trying non-surgical treatments for at least a year. Plantar fascia release surgery is use to relax the plantar
fascia. This surgery is commonly paired with tarsal tunnel release surgery. Surgery is successful for the majority of people.
There are heel spur prevention methods available in order to prevent the formation of a heel spur. First, proper footwear is imperative. Old shoes or those that do not fit properly fail to absorb
pressure and provide the necessary support. Shoes should provide ample cushioning through the heel and the ball of the foot, while also supporting the arch. Wearing an orthotic shoe insert is one of
the best ways to stretch the plantar fascia and prevent conditions such as heel spurs. Stretching the foot and calf is also helpful in preventing damage. Athletes in particular should make sure to
stretch prior to any physical activity. Stretching helps prevent heel spurs by making tissue stronger as well as more flexible. In addition, easing into a new or increasingly difficult routine should
be done to help avoid strain on the heel and surrounding tissue.