Heel spurs are a small calcification, which extends into the attachment of the connective tissues from the calcaneus (heel bone). This is easily observed on X-Ray and is very commonly misdiagnosed as the cause of your pain. Why? Because the wrong type of scan is used and only one foot is examined. Do you know if you have a spur on the other heel, the heel without the pain? Probably? and the heel spur would have been there long before you had the pain, and will still be there long after the pain is gone. Heel spurs are not the actual cause of heel pain, and are virtually always a secondary observation or symptom caused by long term pulling on the heel bone.
One frequent cause of injury to the plantar fascia is pronation. Pronation is defined as the inward and downward action of the foot that occurs while walking, so that the foot’s arch flattens toward the ground (fallen arch). A condition known as excessive pronation creates a mechanical problem in the foot, and the portion of the plantar fascia attached to the heel bone can stretch and pull away from the bone. This damage can occur especially while walking and during athletic activities.
Most of the time heel spurs present as pain in the region surrounding the spur, which typically increases in intensity after prolonged periods of rest. Patients may not be able to bear weight on the afflicted heel comfortably. Running, walking, or lifting heavy weight may exacerbate the issue.
The diagnosis of heel pain and heel spurs is made by a through history of the course of the condition and by physical exam. Weight bearing x-rays are useful in determining if a heel spur is present and to rule out rare causes of heel pain such as a stress fracture of the heel bone, the presence of bone tumors or evidence of soft tissue damage caused by certain connective tissue disorders.
Non Surgical Treatment
The key is to identify what is causing excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over-pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support will help reduce the over-pronation and thus allow the condition to heal. Other common treatments for heel spurs include Stretching exercises. Losing weight. Wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel that absorbs shock. Elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle, heel cup, or orthotics. For example, heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort and cushion to the heel, reducing the amount of shock and shear forces experienced from everyday activities.
Surgery is used a very small percentage of the time. It is usually considered after trying non-surgical treatments for at least a year. Plantar fascia release surgery is use to relax the plantar fascia. This surgery is commonly paired with tarsal tunnel release surgery. Surgery is successful for the majority of people.
If you have not yet developed this condition, you can take steps to protect yourself from it. Most importantly, make it a rule to wear properly fitted footwear. Avoid shoes that have become worn down in the heel, and don’t choose shoes that cause you to walk in an abnormal fashion. Maintaining a healthy weight will ensure that undue pressure isn’t being put on the ligaments, tendons and bones of your feet. If your job requires a great deal of time on your feet, or if you exercise regularly, be sure to balance periods of activity with periods of rest for your feet.