What Are Heel Spurs And What To Do About It?

Otherwise referred to as a calcaneal spur, a heel spur is a bony growth that occurs in the feet. An x-ray examination is often used to detect the condition. Usually, the heel spur will occur due to a variety of reasons. For instance, the accumulation of calcium deposits at the bottom of the heel is among the top causes of the condition. While the calcium deposits might not have an effect on one’s overall health, repeated damage can lead to excessive stress on the heel structure. Due to the extreme pressure on the heel, the individual will experience a spur-shaped deformity on the heel area.

What Causes the Heel Spur?

The plantar fascia is a collection of fibrous tissue that exists on the bottom section of the heel bone. It also extends along the sole of your feet up to the toes. These muscles play an essential role in limiting the over-flattening of the foot arch. When these muscles develop tears or are perhaps inflamed, then the condition is referred to as plantar fasciitis. When the plantar fasciitis healing delays and the injury recurs, the body opts for repairing the damaged tissue with bone. In most cases, the repair process takes an average of six weeks. If the injury persists through this time, then the bone will develop what is referred to as a heel spur.

Diagnosis and Prognosis

The heel spur will be diagnosed by a foot specialist or sports doctor based on your symptoms, clinical examination, and medical history. Once they confirm the presence of the heel spur, they will conduct medical exams to determine the nature of the condition. In most cases, the use of X-rays will demonstrate issues such as calcification or bone pain. Furthermore, the process might involve procedures such as MRIs and ultrasound scans to evaluate the feet for any advanced damage.

The good news is that the occurrence of a heel spur is rarely a permanent condition. Plantar fasciitis, which is the leading cause of the heel spur, is usually reversible and can be treated. In fact, well over 90 percent of people with the condition will show improvements with the appropriate therapy. Even though you may see the heel spur even after treatment, the pain usually resolves after a significant duration.

If the pain persists long after the treatment, then the doctor might consider secondary treatment options. The therapy might include the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Furthermore, the application of cortisone injections is useful for treating the condition. However, further research is required on the long term side effects associated with health medication.

Signs and Risk Factors

The primary symptoms of a heel spur would be experiencing pain around the foot area with the spur. The pain will usually increase in intensity, particularly after long periods of sitting in one position. The patients might experience increased pain during the morning hours. Other patients might also not be able to support the immense weight afflicted on the heel area. More importantly, walking, living heavy items, and running may also increase the condition.

The common cause of most heel spurs today are the calcaneal spurs. When one places immense pressure on the heel ligament, it will not only lead to plantar fasciitis but a heel spur as well. More so, the spur also often develops as a result of lack of proper care to the foot and heels. Even more, people who tend to be overweight or have fleet are increasingly susceptible to the condition. Broadly speaking, several things increase one’s likelihood of suffering from heel spurs. They might include:

  • Athletic activities – engaging in regular physical activity increases the stress and pressure around the heel area. To address the problem, the body might develop bony tissue to help in healing the affected area.
  • Activity of hard surfaces – working or exposing the feet to hard surfaces also increases the pressure and stress around the heel area. Therefore, ensure that you wear protective gear to ensure the feet are safe from damage.
  • Trauma to the heel section – furthermore, any blunt forces or damage to the heel section can increase the likelihood of getting a heel spur. The trauma might originate for issues such as high impact falls.
  • Being female – a recent medical study showed that females are highly likely to suffer from foot deformities than men. In particular, wearing heels and improper footwear is among the main reasons for the condition
  • Being overweight – being overweight increases the level of pressure and stress around the heel area. Such a condition can affect how the body repairs the heel during damage.
  • Improper footwear – wearing incorrect shoes increases the likelihood of heel damage and pain

Top Treatments for a Heel Spur

The leading cause of heel spurs relates to poor biomechanics, which compromises the performance of the heel. As such, it is vital to evaluate and correct the foot biomechanics to avoid any such similar issues in the future. A foot specialist or someone skilled in foot assessment should help in fixing the problem. More so, based on the clinical assessment process, the physiotherapist will provide conservative therapy solutions to suit your needs.

The heel-therapy solutions should help you to work on soft tissue and improve the flexibility of the muscles. Furthermore, the treatment of similar conditions such as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs tends to differ for each individual. Thus, ensure you seek professional advice for a competent foot professional for the best outcomes. Treating a heel spur might involve many different techniques in relation to the nature of the condition experienced by the individual. Among some of the noteworthy treatment approaches for heel spurs include:

Non-Surgical Treatments

Most cases of heel spurs will usually resolve themselves within a period of a few weeks. However, the accepted form of DIY treatment will often include the RICE procedure. The RICE process includes:

  • Rest – decreasing or even stopping activities that increase the pain in your heel is a first significant step in the process.
  • Ice – placing the affected foot in some cold water or ice for some few minutes can be highly effective. You can do this two to three times a day.
  • Compression – the compression process involves layering the affected area with soft clothing that is dipped in cold water. The compression helps to reduce isssues such as redness, swelling and inflammation
  • Elevation – being able to elevate the affected area at height can be beneficial for the healing process as well as for alleviating pain issues.

Shoes and Orthotics

Getting shoes that provide the perfect fit can reduce the amount of pressure that occurs on the heel spur. Usually, the pressure can lead to issues such as discomfort and pain. Some of the critical factors to look for when evaluating a shoe include:

  • The heel support – the back counter of the shoe should be durable to give sufficient support to the heel and to prevent any unusual movements
  • Moderate flexibility – the shoe should not be easily collapsible because it needs to provide support for the feet. A better alternative would be a shoe that is more rigid regardless of the positioning
  • Slightly elevated heel – shoes that have inclined heels can play a significant role in relieving the pressure from around the heel area

You can even invest in custom orthotics that are simple to place in the shoe for improved comfort. The custom orthotics are designed to reduce any foot rolling issues and to provide enhanced support. Usually, the custom orthotics are created using specifications from a medical professional.

Over the Counter Medications

Medications can play a significant role in handling the pain. However, using the medicine for more than one month might require additional consultation with a medical health professional. The common medications prescribed for heel spurs include:

  • Aspirin – this is a popular type of medication that works well for issues such as inflammation, pain and fever
  • Ibuprofen – this is a non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory medication that is used for inflammation, pain and fever.
  • Naproxen- sold under the name Naprosyn, this is non-steroidal medication that is used to treat inflammatory diseases and fever as well.

By being able to control issues of tissue inflammation, you can be able to reduce the chances of further damage to the affected area. However, ensure that you avoid over-consuming medications, especially if you have secondary health issues such as kidney diseases. While OTC medications can be useful in pain control, it does not have similar anti-inflammatory benefits as other medicines.

Physical Activity

Various forms of physical activity can be customized to address the issue of heel spurs. The physical activity plays a major role in the break down and rebuilding of the affected heel area. As such, it is crucial that these exercises target the heel, without necessarily exposing it to extreme pressure. For instance, stretches of the calf and surrounding muscles can help to reduce any pressure around the heel spur. Some of the basic exercises for the condition include:

Foot Flexes

  1. Sit on the flow with one leg placed over the other
  2. Reach for your leg, while touching the toes and pulling them upwards to your upper body. Maintain this position for a few minutes before releasing the foot.
  3. Repeat this stretch exercise as many times as possible, and then cross your legs on the positive side.

Calf Stretches

  1. Stand a few centimeters from a wall
  2. Place one foot in front of the other, and lean the body in a forward position. Then, place the hands on the wall, such as your hands are at shoulder height.
  3. Bend the knees slightly, and push the hips forward to evaluate the stretchability in your calves
  4. Maintain this position for a few seconds, and then straighten your legs. Repeat the stretch for a few times, and then switch to the other foot.

Being able to stretch in the morning, afternoon, or evening can be beneficial in controlling the heel pain. Moreover, consider using splints to keep the foot in a flexed position to avoid overstretching the plantar fascia muscles. The use of braces can be particularly useful all through the night.

Cryo Ultrasound

This is a form of therapy that involves the use of electromagnetic energy and cold therapy to control the effects of pain. In most cases, the machine has a similar appearance to a massive wand that moves all across the ankle and the foot. Several medical studies have shown that this form of therapy is useful for treating both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis.

Corticosteroid Injections

The corticosteroid injections might not necessarily heal the heel spur, but they are helpful in pain management. The injections often involve the applications of a pain control injection to reduce any pain or discomfort issues. Even though there is no specific injection area, most medical professionals will inject the medicine in the inner and middle sections of the heel.

However, it’s important to note that there is a limit to the number of injections that one can receive at a particular point in time. The main reason for such an occurrence is because the injections can increase the likelihood of tendon damage.

Surgery

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons, a medical professional will recommend surgery for heel spurs if conservative solutions fail. Several surgical procedures and techniques are useful for addressing heel spurs. The most popular approach involves the detaching of the plantar fascia ligament from the heel bone. Such a process helps to remove the heel spur. However, it might take several weeks before you can resume optimal functionality of the heels.

Conclusion

Making good decisions is important when it comes to taking good care of your toe and foot health. A heel spur is a foot deformity that can affect almost any type of person. However, with the correct prevention and treatment methods, you can easily control the side effects of the toe deformity. A heel spur can affect your natural gait and your ability to perform normal everyday tasks effectively.

Sarah Shawman

is the webmistress of Footwear 4 Workers.

She started this website out of displeasure with the fact that there are so few good online resources especially dedicated to the 99%: working people. Having suffered from work related plantar fasciitis herself, she set out on a mission to help others.

She updated this page on and will continue to update it as time goes on.

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