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.
A heel spur can develop when there is an abundance of calcium creating a deposit in the calcaneus, or heel bone. Over time, this deposit grows to create an outcropping under the heel that extends
into the foot. The result is a protrusion that leads to foot pain when pressure is applied, and in some cases, even during rest.
More often than not, heel spurs have no signs or symptoms, and you don?t feel any pain. This is because heel spurs aren?t pointy or sharp pieces of bone, contrary to common belief. Heel spurs don?t
cut tissue every time movement occurs; they?re actually deposits of calcium on bone set in place by the body?s normal bone-forming mechanisms. This means they?re smooth and flat, just like all other
bones. Because there?s already tissue present at the site of a heel spur, sometimes that area and the surrounding tissue get inflamed, leading to a number of symptoms, such as chronic heel pain that
occurs when jogging or walking.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are diagnosed based on the history of pain and tenderness localized to these areas. They are specifically identified when there is point tenderness at the bottom of
the heel, which makes it difficult to walk barefoot on tile or wood floors. X-ray examination of the foot is used to identify the bony prominence (spur) of the heel bone (calcaneus).
Non Surgical Treatment
Over-the-counter or prescription-strength anti-inflammatory medications can help temporarily, but can cause side effects with prolonged use - the most significant being gastrointestinal upset,
ulceration and bleeding. Deep tissue massage, taping and other physical therapy modalities can also be helpful. Arch support is highly recommended, either with shoe inserts or custom orthotics made
by podiatrists. If pain continues, a steroid injection at the site of pain may be recommended; however, many physicians do not like injecting around the heel. The side effects of steroids injected in
this area can be serious and worsen symptoms. Complications can include fat necrosis (death of fatty tissue) of the heel and rupture of the plantar fascia.
Most studies indicate that 95% of those afflicted with heel spurs are able to relieve their heel pain with nonsurgical treatments. If you are one of the few people whose symptoms don?t improve with
other treatments, your doctor may recommend plantar fascia release surgery. Plantar fascia release involves cutting part of the plantar fascia ligament in order to release the tension and relieve the
inflammation of the ligament. Sometimes the bone spur is also removed, if there is a large spur (remember that the bone spur is rarely a cause of pain. Overall, the success rate of surgical release
is 70 to 90 percent in patients with heel spurs. One should always be sure to understand all the risks associated with any surgery they are considering.