A heel spur is a calcium deposit on the underside of the heel bone, often caused by strain on foot muscles and ligaments. Heel spurs are common among athletes but also tend to develop as we age, as flexibility decreases. Heel spurs can be painful when associated with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the ball of the foot.
If left untreated, the mild aches associated with this condition can evolve into chronic pain. And as you try to compensate for the pain, your gait may change, which could impact your knee, hip and back.
Though this syndrome is most common in individuals 40 years or older, it can occur at any age. The following factors increase the likelihood of heel spur development. An uneven gait which applies too much pressure to certain areas of the foot. Being overweight. Wearing worn shoes or ill-fitting footwear. Job conditions that require long periods spent standing or lifting heavy objects. The normal aging process which results in a decrease in ligament elasticity.
The Heel Spur itself is not thought to be painful. Patients who experience pain with Plantar Fasciitis are suffering from inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia. This the primary cause of pain and not the Heel Spur. Heel Spurs form in some patients who have plantar fasciitis, and tend to occur in patients who have had the problem for a prolonged period of time. While about 70 % of patients with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur, X-rays also show about 50 % of patients with no symptoms of plantar fasciitis also have a heel spur.
A thorough medical history and physical exam by a physician is always necessary for the proper diagnosis of heel spurs and other foot conditions. X rays of the heel area are helpful, as excess bone production will be visible.
Non Surgical Treatment
Perform some exercises. Exercises that strengthen and lengthen your plantar fascia can also be very helpful for heel spurs. Try some of the following activities. Calf stretch. Place your hands on a wall. Extend 1 foot (0.3 m) behind you with your knee straight and place the other foot in front of you with the knee bent. Push your hips toward the wall and hold the stretch for 10 seconds. You should feel a pull in your calf muscles. Repeat the stretch 20 times for each foot. Plantar fascia stretch, Perform this exercise in the morning before you've done any standing or walking. Cross your injured foot over the knee of your other leg. Grasp your toes and gently pull them toward you. If you can't reach your toes, then wrap a towel around them and pull on the towel. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 20 times for each foot.
Sometimes bone spurs can be surgically removed or an operation to loosen the fascia, called a plantar fascia release can be performed. This surgery is about 80 percent effective in the small group of individuals who do not have relief with conservative treatment, but symptoms may return if preventative measures (wearing proper footwear, shoe inserts, stretching, etc) are not maintained.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can only be prevented by treating any underlying associated inflammatory disease.