Treatments for Heel Bone Spurs
Heel bone spurs, also known as plantar spurs, are small, bony protrusions that develop on the heel bone (calcaneus). These spurs can cause pain and discomfort when walking or standing and are often associated with plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain.
In this article, we will explore the various treatment options available for heel bone spurs, including non-surgical methods like rest, ice, stretching, and custom orthotic inserts, as well as surgical options like spur removal and plantar fasciotomy. We will also provide tips on preventing heel spurs' development and managing underlying conditions that may contribute to their formation.
What Are Heel Bone Spurs?
Heel bone spurs are abnormal growths that form on the heel bone, typically as a result of repetitive stress or strain on the foot. They are made up of calcium deposits that build up over time, leading to a bony protrusion. Heel spurs can vary in size and shape and may be located on the heel's bottom, top, or side.
The most common symptom of heel spurs is pain in the heel area, which may range from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing sensation. The pain is often worse when standing or walking and may be accompanied by inflammation and tenderness. In some cases, the pain may be severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
Heel spurs are often caused by plantar fasciitis, a condition that occurs when the plantar fascia, a ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes, becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be caused by several factors, including:
- Overuse or overloading of the foot
- Wearing poorly fitting or inadequate footwear
- Flat feet or high arches
- Obesity or carrying excess weight
- Certain occupations or activities that put strain on the feet (e.g. running, dancing)
- Age-related changes in the feet
- Medical conditions such as diabetes or arthritis
In many cases, heel spurs can be effectively treated with non-surgical methods. Some common non-surgical treatments include:
Rest and Ice
Rest and ice are often the first line of treatment. Taking a break from activities that put strain on the feet and applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. It is important to avoid walking barefoot or wearing high heels during this time, as these activities can further irritate the heel.
Stretching exercises can help alleviate the pain and tension associated with heel spurs by stretching the plantar fascia and other muscles in the foot. Some simple stretches that may be recommended by a podiatrist include:
- Towel stretches: Sit on the floor with your affected foot extended in front of you. Loop a towel around the ball of your foot and gently pull the ends of the towel toward your body to stretch the plantar fascia. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat several times.
- Calf stretches: Stand facing a wall with your hands against the wall and your affected foot behind you. Keep your unaffected foot forward and bend your front knee while keeping your back leg straight and your heel on the ground. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat several times.
- Arch stretches: Stand on the edge of a step with the ball of your affected foot on the step and your heel hanging off the edge. Slowly lower your heel until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot, then hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Repeat several times.
Over-The-Counter Pain Medication
Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can effectively relieve the pain associated with heel spurs. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare provider before taking any medication.
Custom Orthotic Inserts
Custom orthotic inserts are special inserts designed to support the arch of the foot and alleviate pressure on the heel. They can be prescribed by a podiatrist and are typically made using a mold of the patient's foot. Orthotic inserts can help manage the pain and discomfort and prevent the development of new spurs.
In some cases, non-surgical treatments may not provide sufficient relief from heel bone spurs. In these cases, a podiatrist may recommend surgical treatment. Surgical options include:
Removal of The Spur
A surgeon will remove the spur from the heel bone during this procedure. This can be done using various techniques, including arthroscopy (a minimally invasive procedure using a small camera to visualize the inside of the joint) or open surgery. The specific technique will depend on the location and size of the spur.
In cases where the heel spur is caused by plantar fasciitis, a podiatrist may recommend a plantar fasciotomy. This procedure involves cutting the plantar fascia to release tension and reduce inflammation. It is typically performed using a minimally invasive technique and requires only a small incision.
Risks and Potential Complications
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks and potential complications associated with surgery. These may include infection, bleeding, nerve damage, and scarring. Discussing these risks with a surgeon before undergoing any procedure is important.
While preventing heel spurs' development is not always possible, steps can be taken to reduce the risk. Some tips for preventing heel spurs include:
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Carrying excess weight can put additional strain on the feet, increasing the risk of heel spurs. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce the risk of heel spurs and other foot problems.
Wearing Proper Footwear
Wearing well-fitting, supportive footwear can help prevent the development of heel spurs. Avoid shoes with high heels or insufficient arch support, as these can contribute to heel pain and discomfort.
Stretching Before Physical Activity
Stretching before physical activity can help warm up the muscles in the feet and reduce the risk of injury. This is especially important for activities that place extra strain on the feet, such as running or jumping.
Managing Underlying Conditions
Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis, can increase the risk of heel spurs. It is important to properly manage these conditions to reduce the risk of heel spurs and other foot problems. This may include taking medications as prescribed, following a healthy diet and exercise plan, and seeking medical attention for foot-related issues.
It is important to note that while heel spurs can be painful and disruptive, they are not necessarily a cause for concern. In many cases, they can be effectively treated with non-surgical methods and do not require further intervention.
However, if you are experiencing heel pain, it is important to visit a podiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. A podiatrist can provide personalized recommendations for managing and improving your overall foot health.
Heel bone spurs can be a painful and disruptive condition, but various treatment options are available to manage them. Non-surgical treatments like rest, ice, stretching, and over-the-counter pain medication can effectively relieve pain and discomfort. In cases where non-surgical methods do not provide sufficient relief, surgical options like spur removal and plantar fasciotomy may be recommended.
It is important to visit a podiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan and to follow recommended preventive measures like wearing proper footwear and maintaining a healthy weight to reduce the risk of heel spurs and other foot problems.