What are Heel Spurs?

The heel bone is the largest bone in the foot and absorbs a great deal of shock and pressure that the foot is subjected to. A heel spur is a pointed bony growth on the heel bone. A spur forms when a bone responds to pressure, rubbing or stress that continues for an extended period of time. The aging process also contributes to the development of spurs. As we age the cartilage that covers the ends of bones wears away and this causes the bones to rub against each other resulting in pain and spurs forming along the edges of the joints. This is a very common cause for the formation of heel spurs. Heel spurs can be located at the back of the heel, under it and even beneath the sole of the foot. They often occur along with Planta Fasciitis, an inflammation of the cord like tissue that runs under the foot from the base of the heel to the base of the toes.

The Symptoms of Heel Spurs

Heel spurs, often along with Plantar Fasciitis, are often diagnosed when there is chronic and constant pain to the areas of the feet described above. In most cases the pain is exacerbated when the patient tries to walk barefoot, especially on tile or wooden floor.  If normal treatments like rest, massage and medication do not help in alleviating the symptoms, x-ray is used to determine if heel spurs exist. Based on an examination, a podiatrist may consider spurs as the first and primary cause of pain and go straight to an investigation of this problem.
Preventing the formation of heel spurs is a complex issue as these are the result of other underlying condition. It is only if the inflammatory conditions that caused the spurs are caught and treated early can the development of the spurs be prevented.

Treatment Options

The treatment options for heel spurs (and Plantar Fasciitis) range from the most simple to surgery. Among the most commonly used are:
  • The localized application of ice to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Physical therapy, including a variety of stretching exercises can be used to both treat the condition as well as to prevent recurrence in future.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication and injections are often used to provide immediate relief from pain and allow for increased mobility while other treatments are being applied.
  • Doughnut shaped shoe inserts can be used to relieve the pressure on the spurs when standing or walking.
  • Heel lifts can reduce the stress on the Achilles tendon and this in turn may reduce the amount of pain caused by spurs located at the back of the heel.
  • Wearing soft cushioned shoes, such a sports or running shoes, can reduce the pressure on the feet and so cause a reduction in the pain that the heel spurs may cause.
  • If none of these, or other treatments, provide any lasting relief from the pain, surgery is often the last resort and the best way to eliminate the pain permanently.
The Outlook

The outlook for those suffering from heel spurs is generally quite good. In most cases the condition responds well to medication and non-surgical treatments and exercise. Surgical intervention is often not necessary. As with all medical conditions, the earlier heel spurs are diagnosed and treatment begun, the better the chances of success and faster the recovery. If you have persistent symptoms like those described here, it will be wise to consult a podiatrist to begin treatment as soon as possible.


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