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.
When a patient has plantar fasciitis, the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and degenerative (worn out)--these abnormalities can make normal activities quite painful. Symptoms typically worsen early in
the morning after sleep. At that time, the plantar fascia is tight so even simple movements stretch the contracted plantar fascia. As you begin to loosen the plantar fascia, the pain usually
subsides, but often returns with prolonged standing or walking.
The vast majority of people who have heel spurs feel the asscociated pain during their first steps in the morning. The pain is quite intense and felt either the bottom or front of the heel bone.
Typically, the sharp pain diminishes after being up for a while but continues as a dull ache. The pain characteristically returns when first standing up after sitting for long periods.
A Heel Spur diagnosis is made when an X-ray shows a hook of bone protruding from the bottom of the foot at the point where the plantar fascia is attached to the heel bone. The plantar fascia is the
thick, connective tissue that runs from the calcaneus (heel bone) to the ball of the foot. This strong and tight tissue helps maintain the arch of the foot. It is also one of the major transmitters
of weight across the foot as you walk or run. In other words, tremendous stress is placed on the plantar fascia.
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, which is a more radical treatment, can be a permanent correction to remove the spur itself. If your doctor believes that surgery is indicated, he will recommend an operation - but only after
establishing that less drastic methods of treatment are not successful.
You can help prevent heel spur symptoms from returning by wearing the proper shoes. Customized orthotics and insoles can help relieve pressure. It is important to perform your exercises to help keep
your foot stretched and relaxed.