A heel spur is a bony growth at the underside of the heel bone. The underlying cause of heel spurs is a common condition called ?Plantar Fasciitis?. This is Latin for inflammation of the plantar
fascia. This tendon forms the arch of the foot, starting at the heel and running to the ball of the foot. Plantar Fasciitis is a persistent and painful condition. Interestingly, in some people a heel
spur has been present for a long time, but no pain is felt for years until one day the pain suddenly appears ?out of nothing?.
Heel spurs can form as a result of repeated strain placed on foot muscles and ligaments as well as from abnormally stretching the band of tissue connecting the heel and ball of the foot. Repeated
injury to the membrane that lines the heel bone can also cause problems as can repeated tight pressure on the back of the heel. The causes can range from excessive walking (especially if unaccustomed
to walking), running or jumping to improperly fitted or worn-out shoes. Runners, volleyball players, and tennis players, people who do step aerobics or stair climbing for exercise, those with flat
feet, pregnant women, the obese and diabetics and those who wear tight-fitting shoes with a high heel are all prone to developing spurs (and plantar fasciitis) more readily.
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.
Diagnosis is made using a few different technologies. X-rays are often used first to ensure there is no fracture or tumor in the region. Then ultrasound is used to check the fascia itself to make
sure there is no tear and check the level of scar tissue and damage. Neurosensory testing, a non-painful nerve test, can be used to make sure there is not a local nerve problem if the pain is thought
to be nerve related. It is important to remember that one can have a very large heel spur and no plantar fasciitis issues or pain at all, or one can have a great deal of pain and virtually no spur at
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatments for bone spurs and plantar fasciitis include Stretching the calf muscles several times daily is critical in providing tension relief for the plantar fascia. Some physicians may recommend
using a step to stretch, while others may encourage yoga or pushing against a wall to stretch. Icing after activity. A frozen tennis ball can provide specific relief. Rolling the tennis ball under
the arch of the foot after exercise can lessen pain in the area. Taping is also recommended at times. Several manufacturers of sports tape have plantar fascia specific lines. Orthotics are a good
idea for those on their feet during the day. Orthotics can provide cushioning and relief. Cortisone shots in the fascia can provide temporary anti-inflammatory relief. Losing weight is perhaps the
most effective method of improving heel and foot pain. Those who are overweight are far more likely to report these syndromes.
Sometimes bone spurs can be surgically removed or an operation to loosen the fascia, called a plantar fascia release can be performed. This surgery is about 80 percent effective in the small group of
individuals who do not have relief with conservative treatment, but symptoms may return if preventative measures (wearing proper footwear, shoe inserts, stretching, etc) are not maintained.