Heel spurs are tiny protruding calcium deposits that can develop near the base of your heel bone. They can be caused by repetitive activities, such as dancing or running, or they can form in
association with plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the ligament (plantar fascia) on the bottom of your foot. When the plantar fascia is tight and pulls on your heel bone, the bone
releases calcium to try to heal itself. The excess deposits of calcium can sometimes form heel spurs.
Early signs of heel pain are usually due to plantar fasciitis, the inflammation of the plantar fascia. It is probably the most common cause of heel pain seen by the podiatrist. It is seen in all
groups of people; runners, athletes, weekend warriors, people who have jobs requiring a fair amount of standing, walking, or lifting, and those who have recently gained weight. The pain most often
manifests itself after periods of non-weight bearing when the plantar fascia is given a chance to rest, so your first steps cause a sudden strain to the tissue. Pain is most common with the first
steps in the morning and after periods of rest. Fortunately, upwards of 80 percent of those treated early do remarkably well with conservative therapy.
If your body has created calcium build-ups in an effort to support your plantar fascia ligament, each time you step down with your foot, the heel spur is being driven into the soft, fatty tissue
which lines the bottom of your heel. Heel spur sufferers experience stabbing sensations because the hard protrusion is literally being jabbed into the heel pad. If left untreated, Plantar Fasciitis
and heel spurs can erode the fatty pad of the heel and cause permanent damage to the foot. Fortunately, most cases can be resolved without medications or surgeries.
Your doctor will review your medical history and examine your foot. X-rays are used to identify the location and size of the heel spur.
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.
In a small number of cases (usually less than 5 percent), patients may not experience relief after trying the recommendations listed above. It is important that conservative treatments (such as those
listed above) be performed for AT LEAST a year before considering surgery. Time is important in curing the pain from heel spurs, and insufficient treatment before surgery may subject you to potential
complications from the procedure. If these treatments fail, your doctor may consider an operation to loosen the plantar fascia, called a plantar fascia release.
There are heel spur prevention methods available in order to prevent the formation of a heel spur. First, proper footwear is imperative. Old shoes or those that do not fit properly fail to absorb
pressure and provide the necessary support. Shoes should provide ample cushioning through the heel and the ball of the foot, while also supporting the arch. Wearing an orthotic shoe insert is one of
the best ways to stretch the plantar fascia and prevent conditions such as heel spurs. Stretching the foot and calf is also helpful in preventing damage. Athletes in particular should make sure to
stretch prior to any physical activity. Stretching helps prevent heel spurs by making tissue stronger as well as more flexible. In addition, easing into a new or increasingly difficult routine should
be done to help avoid strain on the heel and surrounding tissue.