Diagnosing and Treating Heel Spurs

Heel Spurs

Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are two of the most prevalent causes of heel pain. They are more common in older people, people with a history of intense activity or for those who wore high heels for many years. While for most the pain is solely an annoyance, for some people it is debilitating.

What is a heel spur and what causes it?

Heel spurs are often age or activity related and are caused by a small bony protrusion on the bottom of the heel bone. The bony growth is a result of excess calcium deposits in the area. They are only visible via an X-ray and cannot be seen from outside of the foot.

Calcium deposit build-up is typically caused by strains on the foot or repeated tears of the membrane over the heel bone. Other risk factors for these spurs include:

  • Walking abnormalities
  • Unsupportive or ill-fitting shoes
  • Excess weight
  • History of running and participating in sports that contain a lot of jumping

These spurs are often associated with and co-occur with plantar fasciitis as the area of stress is the same. Some people experience no symptoms related to this condition and do not realize they even have it unless it is discovered through an unrelated X-ray. If a symptom is encountered, it is usually a knife-like stabbing pain that transitions into a dull ache as the day goes on.

Watch for pain and stiffness

Plantar fasciitis often causes pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel as well. The plantar fascia is a thick ligament that supports the arch of the foot, helps people walk and connects the heel to the rest of the foot. Many people experience pain in the plantar fascia due to its persistent use in everyday life. While it is built to absorb shock, it can be torn or damaged by overuse, or it can be the victim of inflammation that causes pain. A torn plantar fascia is different from plantar fasciitis, and more pressing concerns. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the connective tissue and its resulting symptoms. Most people with this condition experience a stabbing or sharp pain, and it is usually at its worst in the morning before the ligament has time to warm up or after a long day of activity when it is aggravated.

Treatment options:

  • Treatment for both of these conditions is usually conservative. Stretching first thing in the morning to warm up the feet is a great place to start. This daily practice may reduce inflammation and stiffness.
  • Investing in shoes with better support or socks that provide extra cushion may help.
  • Over the counter pain relievers reduce discomfort and swelling as well.
  • Taping the area may provide some relief.
  • Physical therapy and orthotic inserts may also help.
  • In rare cases, surgery could be necessary. The majority of people recover without surgical intervention.

Visit our office for diagnosis and treatment

To learn more about how to prevent these conditions, pay a visit to our office. We can provide tips on proper foot care, stretching techniques and how to reduce pain throughout the day. To find out if you might have heel spurs or plantar fasciitis, schedule an appointment today.

Call (208) 803-0010 today to reach Ambulatory Foot & Ankle Clinic.

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