A heel spur is a projection or growth of bone where certain muscles and soft tissue structures of the foot attach to the bottom of the heel. Most commonly, the plantar fascia, a broad, ligament-like
structure extending from the heel bone to the base of the toes becomes inflamed, and symptoms of heel pain begin. As this inflammation continues over a period of time, with or without treatment, a
heel spur is likely to form. If heel pain is treated early, conservative therapy is often successful, and surgery is usually avoided.
When the Plantar Fascia is allowed to rest during sleep or long periods of inactivity, the fascia tightens and shortens. When you first stand up after resting, the fascia is forced to stretch very
quickly causing micro-tears in the tissue. This is why the first steps in the morning are so exquisitely painful. Heel spurs are more likely to happen if you suffer from over-pronation (walking with
a rolling gait) you stand or walk on rigid surfaces for long periods, you are above ideal weight or during pregnancy, you have stiff muscles in your calves.
Symptoms of heel spur syndrome often include pain early in the morning or after rest, as you take the first few steps. It may also include severe pain after standing or walking long hours, especially
on hard cement floors. Usually more pain exist while wearing a very flat soled shoe. A higher heel may actually relieve the pain as an arch is created. The pain is usually sharp, but can also be a
dull ache. The pain may only be at the bottom of the heel, or may also travel along the arch of the foot.
A heel spur is often seen on X-ray as a bony protrusion, which can vary in size. However, because a Heel Spur only indicates increased load on the plantar fascia, and not pain, an ultra sound may be
required to assess other actual cause of the heel pain such and may include checking to see if the plantar fascia is inflamed or degenerated.
Non Surgical Treatment
The key is to identify what is causing excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over-pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support will
help reduce the over-pronation and thus allow the condition to heal. Other common treatments for heel spurs include Stretching exercises. Losing weight. Wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel that
absorbs shock. Elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle, heel cup, or orthotics. For example, heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort and cushion to the heel, reducing the amount of
shock and shear forces experienced from everyday activities.
More than 90 percent of people get better with nonsurgical treatments. If conservative treatment fails to treat symptoms of heel spurs after a period of 9 to 12 months, surgery may be necessary to
relieve pain and restore mobility. Surgical techniques include release of the plantar fascia, removal of a spur. Pre-surgical tests or exams are required to identify optimal candidates, and it's
important to observe post-surgical recommendations concerning rest, ice, compression, elevation of the foot, and when to place weight on the operated foot. In some cases, it may be necessary for
patients to use bandages, splints, casts, surgical shoes, crutches, or canes after surgery. Possible complications of heel surgery include nerve pain, recurrent heel pain, permanent numbness of the
area, infection, and scarring. In addition, with plantar fascia release, there is risk of instability, foot cramps, stress fracture, and tendinitis.
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.