A heel spur is a pointed bony outgrowth of the bone of the heel (the calcaneus bone). Heel spurs under the sole of the foot (plantar area) are associated with plantar fasciitis. Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can occur alone or be related to underlying diseases. Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are treated by measures that decrease the associated inflammation and avoid reinjury.
The main cause of heel spur is calcium deposit under the heel bone. Building of calcium deposits can take place over several months. Heel spurs happens because of stress on the foot ligaments and muscles and continuous tearing of the membrane covering the heel bone. It also happens due to continuous stretching the plantar fascia. Heel spurs are mostly seen in case of athletes who has to do lots of jumping and running. The risk factors that may lead to heel spurs include aormalities in walking which place too much stress on the heel bone, nerves in the heel and ligaments. Poorly fitted shoes without the right arch support. Jogging and running on hard surfaces. Excess weight. Older age. Diabetes. Standing for a longer duration.
With heel spurs, people often talk about a dull ache which is felt most of the time with episodes of a sharp pain in the center of the heel or on the inside margin of the heel. Often the pain is worse on first rising in the morning and after rest and is aggravated by prolonged weight bearing and thin-soled shoes.
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
Heel spurs can be treated by wearing orthotic insoles inside the shoe. Orthotics are designed to correct incorrect gait, in particular over-pronation (rolling in of the foot and collapsing of the arches). Over-pronation is a very common foot condition, affecting at least half of the population. It is a major contributing cause of heel spurs. Orthotics are very effective in that the device corrects the foot to its natural position. By supporting the arches properly and preventing excess rolling in of the foot, the plantar fascia is placed under much less strain and stress compared to an unsupported foot. Less strain on the ligament means less pulling away from the heel bone, allowing the inflammation to heal faster. In addition to orthotic treatment, most podiatrists and physiotherapists recommend a series of exercises to help make the ligaments in the feet and legs longer and more flexible. In turn this will help reduce strain on the plantar fascia.
Surgery involves releasing a part of the plantar fascia from its insertion in the heel bone, as well as removing the spur. Many times during the procedure, pinched nerves (neuromas), adding to the pain, are found and removed. Often, an inflamed sac of fluid call an accessory or adventitious bursa is found under the heel spur, and it is removed as well. Postoperative recovery is usually a slipper cast and minimal weight bearing for a period of 3-4 weeks. On some occasions, a removable short-leg walking boot is used or a below knee cast applied.