A heel spur is a foot condition that’s created by a bony-like growth, called a calcium deposit, that extends between your heel bone and arch.
Heel spurs often start in the front of and underneath your heel. They eventually affect other parts of your foot. They can get up to half an inch in length. They may not necessarily be visible to the naked eye.
Detecting heel spurs can be challenging. Heel spurs don’t always cause pain, and not all heel pain is related to spurs. Keep reading to learn more about these bony growths and what causes them.
Symptoms of heel spurs may include:
Swelling at the front of your heel
The affected area may also feel warm to the touch. These symptoms may spread to the arch of your foot. Eventually, a small bony protrusion may be visible.
Some heel spurs may cause no symptoms at all. You may also not see any changes in soft tissues or bones surrounding the heel. Heel spurs are often discovered only through X-rays and other tests done for another foot issue.
Heel spurs are directly caused by long-term muscle and ligament strain. Eventually, this excessive strain stresses the heel bone (calcaneus) causing spurs.
Heel spurs develop over time. They don’t suddenly appear after a workout or a sports event. Heel spurs tend to occur when you ignore early symptoms like heel pain.
Repetitive stress from walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces is a common cause of heel spurs. They may also develop from wearing shoes that don’t support your foot.
Heel spurs may also be caused by:
Bruising of the heel
Excess body weight
Poorly fitted shoes
Walking gait issues
Wearing flip-flops too often
Many people who have heel spurs also have plantar fasciitis. This painful condition deals with the tough, fibrous tissue that runs between your heel and toes. Having plantar fasciitis increases your risk for eventually developing heel spurs.
Heel spur treatment primarily consists of rest and lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor about the following treatment options for heel spurs.
Using ice packs or cold compresses for up to 15 minutes at a time may help relieve heel spur pain by temporarily numbing the area. This method also helps reduce swelling. Cold compresses are preferable over heat packs for heel spurs because heat works better for joint and muscle aches.
INJECTIONS OF ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATIONS
For severe pain, your podiatrist may recommend corticosteroid shots. These anti-inflammatory injections help to ease both pain and inflammation throughout the heel and arch of the foot.
OVER-THE-COUNTER PAIN MEDICATIONS
Acute, or short-term, pain may be reduced with the help of over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. These may include acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
Tell your doctor if you’re taking any other medications, such as blood thinners, or if you have any preexisting liver or kidney problems that could prevent you from taking OTC pain relievers.
PHYSICAL THERAPY EXERCISES AND STRETCHING EXERCISES
Your podiatrist may recommend physical therapy as a way to learn and practice exercises to prevent long-term pain, especially since anti-inflammatory medications can only be safely taken for a short amount of time.
Heel spur exercises consist of stretching the heel and plantar fascia muscles. Your physical therapist can show you how to do some of the exercises at home. These can be performed at any time of the day, but stretches can be especially helpful at night before bedtime.
Rest is one of the most recommended treatment measures for both plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
Not only does rest help alleviate acute pain, but getting off your feet can also prevent your condition from worsening. It’s especially important to rest the feet after long periods of standing and other activities.
In the case of acute pain from a heel spur, your podiatrist may ask you to rest your foot until your symptoms subside. Putting weight on your heel while it’s in pain will likely worsen your condition. It could also lengthen your recovery time.
ORTHOTIC SHOE INSERTS
Orthotic shoe inserts, such as heel pads, can help give you the arch and heel support needed to reduce pain. Heel pads can also prevent further wear and tear. They should be used in addition to proper footwear for all-around foot protection.
SURGERY FOR HEEL SPURS
Your doctor may recommend surgery when heel spur pain becomes severe and ongoing. This type of surgery involves removing the heel spur. Sometimes it also involves releasing the plantar fascia.
Heel spur surgery not only reduces pain, but it’s also aimed at boosting mobility in the overall foot. Most people who have this type of surgery also have plantar fasciitis. Due to other forms of treatments and therapies available, surgery is not common for heel spurs alone.
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