We treat patients here at Capital District Podiatry for many foot and ankle conditions. Heel pain is a particularly common issue, one that can be attributed to a variety of factors including the tremendous force loads placed on the heels.
Excessive forces can certainly lead to problems in soft tissues—like the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia—but they are also responsible for issues with bones as well. This is the case with a condition known as a heel spur.
Understanding Heel Spurs
Bone spurs form as the result of calcium deposits the body makes on existing bone tissue. This happens as a protective measure in response to external pressure, friction or other such forces. In time, these calcium deposits build up—often on or along an edge of a bone—until it has become an observable bump. In addition to pressure or physical stress, spurs can sometimes develop when the body repairs tissue lost as a result of osteoporosis.
These boney protrusions do not usually have symptoms or cause pain on their own. In fact, you can certainly develop one and not even know about it. When these spurs irritate soft tissue, however, it can cause problems, which is the case when spurs lead to heel pain.
Spurs can develop on any bone in the body. When they are located on the heel bone, we most often find them on the underside. Heel spurs can extend out to about half an inch and potentially cause the pain you are experiencing underneath your heel. Heel spurs are frequently caused when foot muscles and ligaments are strained, which can be combined with repetitive tearing of the membrane covering your heel bone.
The condition often, but not always, accompanies a common cause of heel pain – plantar fasciitis. With this particular foot issue, the plantar fascia—a band of fibrous connective tissues running along the underside of the foot—is stretched excessively on account of overuse, and then becomes inflamed. These related conditions are quite common for individuals who play sports like basketball and tennis, but also for runners.
As we noted, heel spurs generally do not show symptoms, but when they lead to inflammation in surrounding soft tissue, it can be painful. This heel pain can be either intermittent or chronic in nature, and is considered a soft tissue injury. In accordance with the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, heel spur pain is most severe with the initial steps of the day, but then progressively becomes better as the fascia loosens over the course of the day. Patients typically experience a return of the sharp pain with the steps following periods of inactivity or rest.
Heel Spur Treatment and Prevention
With regards to heel spur treatment, nonsurgical options are effective for approximately ninety percent of cases. This treatment can include:
- Changing shoes
- Orthotic devices and shoe inserts
- Physical therapy
- Strapping or taping feet
Whereas these methods do work for most cases, it is sometimes necessary to either release tension on the fascia or remove the spur with surgery. Our goal is always to find a successful resolution for foot and ankle problems with nonsurgical treatment, so we will attempt to ease your pain with conservative methods, but you will be in expert hands if surgery is required.
Preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of heel spurs include wearing shoes that fit correctly, choosing appropriate footwear for physical activity, warming up and stretching thoroughly before activities, and easing into new exercise routines.
No matter if the pain from your heel spur can be resolved with conservative methods or a surgical procedure is required, you will find the effective care you need here at Capital District Podiatry. If heel pain is bothering you, or you are experiencing any other foot and ankle issues, contact us by calling (518) 273-0053 to schedule an appointment. You can also use our online form and request an appointment with either our Troy or Clifton Park, NY offices today.
If you haven’t already taken advantage of this, be sure to request a copy of Dr. Pandya’s book Stop Heel Pain: A Guide to Heel and Foot Pain. There is absolutely no cost to you; all you need to do is fill out the online form to request your free copy today!