A heel spur is a calcium deposit causing a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel bone. On an X-ray, a heel spur can extend forward by as much as a half-inch. Without visible X-ray evidence, the condition is sometimes known as "heel spur syndrome." Although heel spurs are often painless, they can cause heel pain. They are frequently associated with plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the fibrous band of connective tissue (plantar fascia) that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the ball of the foot. Treatments for heel spurs and associated conditions include exercise, custom-made orthotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and cortisone injections. If conservative treatments fail, surgery may be necessary.
The plantar fascia is a thick, ligamentous 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. That's why tremendous stress is placed on the plantar fascia.
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 thorough medical history and physical exam by a physician is always necessary for the proper diagnosis of heel spurs and other foot conditions. X rays of the heel area are helpful, as excess bone production will be visible.
Non Surgical Treatment
Exercise. If you think your pain is exercise-related, change your exercise routine, environment, or foot-ware, and emphasize movements and/or body parts that do not cause pain. Mind/Body. Occasionally foot pain can be related to stress. The body may respond with generalized tension that contributes to pain in many areas, including the feet. Hypnosis and guided imagery are worth exploring if an anatomical problem is not apparent. Supplements. Natural anti-inflammatories can be just as effective as ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain relievers with fewer side effects. Try one of the following. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) standardized to 5-6% gingerols and 6% shogoals, take one to two 500 mg tablets three to four times daily. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) standardized to 95% curcuminoids, take 400-600 mg three times daily. Also, be sure that you're wearing well-fitting shoes, the proper shoes for each activity, and that you buy new foot-ware as soon as you notice signs of wear. You can also take the pressure off your heel with a donut-shaped heel cushion or a heel-raising pad placed in your shoe. Acupuncture can also relieve the pain, as can for some sufferers, magnetic shoe inserts, although the evidence behind their effectiveness is not conclusive. Osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation can help with soft tissue pain in and around the feet.
When chronic heel pain fails to respond to conservative treatment, surgical treatment may be necessary. Heel surgery can provide pain relief and restore mobility. The type of procedure used is based on examination and usually consists of releasing the excessive tightness of the plantar fascia, called a plantar fascia release. The procedure may also include removal of heel spurs.
You can prevent heel spurs by wearing well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent soles, rigid shanks, and supportive heel counters; choosing appropriate shoes for each physical activity; warming up and doing stretching exercises before each activity; and pacing yourself during the activities. Avoid wearing shoes with excessive wear on the heels and soles. If you are overweight, losing weight may also help prevent heel spurs.