Heel spurs are a condition that usually makes its presence known first thing in the morning via heel pain. Discomfort is typically felt in the front and bottom of the heel (calcaneal). Pain can be constant for several months or intermittent for lengthy periods of time.
At the onset of this condition, pain and swelling become present, with discomfort particularly noted as pushing off with the toes occurs during walking. This movement of the foot stretches the fascia that is already irritated and inflamed. If this condition is allowed to continue, pain is noticed around the heel region because of the newly formed bone, in response to the stress. This results in the development of the heel spur. It is common among athletes and others who run and jump a significant amount.
The spur itself is not painful, however, if it is sharp and pointed it can poke into soft tissue surrounding the spur itself. As the bone spur irritates the tissue, inflammation and bruising can occur leading to heel pain. Heel spurs can affect your ability to do your usual work and/or activities, and can also trap and irritate the nerves in your heel area. They can change the way you walk, and can lead to knee, hip and low back injuries. If severe, they may require medical intervention.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by your physiotherapist or sports doctor based on your symptoms, history and clinical examination. After confirming your heel spur or plantar fasciitis they will investigate WHY you are likely to be predisposed to heel spurs and develop a treatment plan to decrease your chance of future bouts. X-rays will show calcification or bone within the plantar fascia or at its insertion into the calcaneus. This is known as a calcaneal or heel spur. Ultrasound scans and MRI are used to identify any plantar fasciitis tears, inflammation or calcification. Pathology tests may identify spondyloarthritis, which can cause symptoms similar to plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Rest won?t help you in case of pain from the heel spur. When you get up after sleeping for some time, the pain may get worse. The pain worsens after a period of rest. You will feel pain because the plantar fascia elongates during working which stresses the heel. It is important to see a doctor if you are having consistent pain in you heel. The doctors may advise few or all of the conservative treatments, stretching exercises, shoe recommendations, shoe inserts or orthotic devices, physical therapy, taping or strapping to rest stressed muscles and tendons. There are some over-the-counter medicines available for treatment of heel pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) are some such medicines which can help you to get relief from the pain. In case of biomechanical imbalances causing the pain, a functional orthotic device can help you to get relief. Your doctor may also advise a corticosteroid injection for eliminating the inflammation.
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.
The best way to prevent heel spurs is by wearing properly fitted footwear. Shoes should have a shock absorbing tread and soles and should be effective in supporting the heel and arch. Proper warm up and stretching before embarking on any physical activity that will put pressure or impact on the area is highly recommended. Also, just as it?s important for your general health, if you can lose some extra pounds, you will be more likely to avoid heel spurs. If you are starting to feel the onset of pain, it may not be heel spurs, but could be a tendonitis condition that could lead to heel spurs.