Heel spurs are abnormal bony growths that develop at the back of or under the heel. Inflammation around a spur, more so than the spur itself, can cause significant pain. Fortunately, symptoms can be
eased with non-surgical treatments for the vast majority of people.
Heel spurs can form as a result of repeated strain placed on foot muscles and ligaments as well as from abnormally stretching the band of tissue connecting the heel and ball of the foot. Repeated
injury to the membrane that lines the heel bone can also cause problems as can repeated tight pressure on the back of the heel. The causes can range from excessive walking (especially if unaccustomed
to walking), running or jumping to improperly fitted or worn-out shoes. Runners, volleyball players, and tennis players, people who do step aerobics or stair climbing for exercise, those with flat
feet, pregnant women, the obese and diabetics and those who wear tight-fitting shoes with a high heel are all prone to developing spurs (and plantar fasciitis) more readily.
Most of the time heel spurs present as pain in the region surrounding the spur, which typically increases in intensity after prolonged periods of rest. Patients may not be able to bear weight on the
afflicted heel comfortably. Running, walking, or lifting heavy weight may exacerbate the issue.
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
In many cases treatment is non-surgical and can relieve pain, but may take from three months to a year to fully recover. Performing stretching exercises to help relax the tissues in the heel as well
as rest, icing, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or prescription medications can help ease symptoms. Customized orthotics or shoe inserts to position and cushion your heel can help.
Surgery involves releasing a part of the plantar fascia from its insertion in the heel bone, as well as removing the spur. Many times during the procedure, pinched nerves (neuromas), adding to the
pain, are found and removed. Often, an inflamed sac of fluid call an accessory or adventitious bursa is found under the heel spur, and it is removed as well. Postoperative recovery is usually a
slipper cast and minimal weight bearing for a period of 3-4 weeks. On some occasions, a removable short-leg walking boot is used or a below knee cast applied.
To prevent this condition, wearing shoes with proper arches and support is very important. Proper stretching is always a necessity, especially when there is an increase in activities or a change in
running technique. It is not recommended to attempt working through the pain, as this can change a mild case of heel spurs and plantar fascitis into a long lasting and painful episode of this