A heel spur (or osteophyte) is a small bony growth or collection of bony growths on the back or underside of the heel. They may or may not cause pain, and patients often confuse heel spurs with a
related condition known as plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the band of tissue that stretches from the ball of the foot to the heel, forming the arch. Many people have bone spurs without ever
knowing it, and about 70 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis who do have discomfort will also be found to have a heel spur when observed via X-ray. It is likely that a bone spur forms as the
body tries to repair itself from repeated injury by laying down extra bone at the site of trauma. Plantar fasciitis is typically another result of such trauma. Heel spurs are most often seen in
middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups.
Though this syndrome is most common in individuals 40 years or older, it can occur at any age. The following factors increase the likelihood of heel spur development. An uneven gait which applies too
much pressure to certain areas of the foot. Being overweight. Wearing worn shoes or ill-fitting footwear. Job conditions that require long periods spent standing or lifting heavy objects. The normal
aging process which results in a decrease in ligament elasticity.
Most bone spurs cause no signs or symptoms. You might not realize you have bone spurs until an X-ray for another condition reveals the growths. In some cases, though, bone spurs can cause pain and
loss of motion in your joints.
Because the diagnosis of heel spurs can be confused with tarsal tunnel syndrome (as described earlier), most surgeons advocate performing a tarsal tunnel release (or at least a partial tarsal tunnel
release) along with the plantar fascia release. This surgery is about 80percent successful in relieving pain in the small group of patients who do not improve with conservative treatments.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of heel spurs is the same as treatment of plantar fasciitis. Because these problems are related, the treatment is the same. The first step in the treatment of a heel spur is short-term rest
and inflammation control. Here are the steps patients should take in order to cure the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Avoiding the activity that caused the symptoms is the first step
in treatment. For example, take a few day off jogging or prolonged standing/walking. Just resting usually helps to eliminate the most severe pain, and will allow the inflammation to begin to cool
down. Icing will help to diminish some of the symptoms and control the heel pain. Icing is especially helpful after a sudden flare up of symptoms. Exercises and stretches are designed to relax the
tissues that surround the heel bone. Some simple exercises, performed in the morning and evening, often help patients feel better quickly. Many patients will work with a physical therapist, or you
can try some simple activities on your own. If you need some help, meet with a therapist for a few sessions to learn a program you can continue on your own.
When chronic heel pain fails to respond to conservative treatment, surgical treatment may be necessary. Heel surgery can provide relief of pain 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. Depending on the presence of excess bony build up, the procedure
may or may not include removal of heel spurs. Similar to other surgical interventions, there are various modifications and surgical enhancements regarding surgery of the heel.