A heel spur is a calcium deposit where ligaments and tendons attach to the heel bone. Through a process that occurs over months, it grows from the bone into the flesh of the foot.
The calcium deposit buildup that results in a heel spur is most often caused by ligament and muscle strains, repeated tearing of the membrane that covers the heel, and stretching of the plantar fascia. Contributing to the calcium buildup are the following:
- Running or jogging
- Frequent sudden bursts of physical activity
- Gait abnormalities
- Excess weight
- Poorly fitted or very worn shoes
- Increasing age
- Flat feet or high arches
- Long periods of standing on the feet
In many cases, heel spurs do not cause symptoms. When the soft tissue around the spur becomes inflamed, however, intermittent or chronic pain can occur. Often described as “like the stabbing of a knife or ice pick”, the pain is most severe when a person stands or walks after a period of rest. Contrary to what one would think, the pain decreases as walking increases.
Heel spurs are detected when the foot is x-rayed. They appear as protrusions that can extend from the heel bone by up to a half-inch.
It is possible that simple at-home treatments may be effective in reducing the pain caused by heel spurs. Elevating the foot, applying heat, or putting a cushion in the heel of the shoe might help diminish the pain. If these measures do not provide relief, Dr. Burmeister may recommend a more aggressive treatment plan that may include
- Stretching exercises;
- Taping or strapping the foot;
- Anti-inflammatory medications;
- Shoe option recommendations;
- Physical therapy; and/or
- Corticosteroid injection.
Surgery to relieve pain and restore mobility may be an option if the symptoms of heel spurs are not relieved by other means after a period of nine to twelve months. Surgical procedures can release the plantar fascia or remove the spur.
There are a number of measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of heel spurs happening in the first place. Do not wear shoes that have excessively worn heels and/or soles. Proper-fitting shoes should have shock-absorbent soles, rigid shanks, and supportive heel counters. Shoes should be activity appropriate. Warm up and stretch before doing physical activities; pace yourself during physical activities. Losing weight will also aid in preventing heel spurs.
If you experience the symptoms of a heel spur, Dr. Jeffrey Burmeister, DPM, and his experienced staff are ready to fully diagnose, treat, and see you on your way to pain-free living. Schedule an appointment by calling (904) 765-8889 or by completing an online appointment request Here.