What is a Heel Spur? - Injury Overview
A heel spur can cause immense pain and discomfort, but sometimes there may be no obvious symptoms at all. It may stem from an issue with your foot, causing the spur to grow. In this guide, we will discuss what a heel spur is, the consequences it has on the body, how to prevent it, and treatments you can perform to get your life back on track after experiencing heel pain caused by a bone spur. Although there are many non-surgical options available that may relieve you of your symptoms such as physical therapy exercises, Cold therapy, and Shockwave therapy gives fast healing results when side effects of surgery such as missing work are not ideal.
What is a Heel Spur?
A heel spur is a bony growth that sticks out at the back of your heel. It's quite common for people to get one if they are regularly putting in long periods standing on their feet. Some people even develop over one, which can sometimes be painful. Although counterintuitive, you're more likely to develop a heel spur as you age and especially if you are often barefoot or have flat feet rather than wearing elevated heels.
The technical term for the heel bone is the calcaneus bone, it is also known as a calcaneus spur, which is at the bottom of your foot behind your heel bone and it may cause pain while walking or even periodic swelling in your foot because it impacts multiple muscles and tendons through the bottom of your foot.
Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis
Spurs under the heel are often associated with plantar fasciitis. Both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis have similar risk factors and causes. The treatments for heel spur and plantar fasciitis are also similar.
Plantar fasciitis describes the inflammation of the plantar fascia that connects your heel bone to the toes and provides shock absorption. This can lead to significant pain and stiffness in the foot if left untreated.
When it comes to deciding between heel spurs and plantar fasciitis, there's not a simple answer. In some cases, it might be unclear whether the pain is caused by a heel spur or plantar fasciitis (or most often, a combination of the two). An X-ray could help determine whether a heel spur is present.
What Causes Heel Spurs?
Heel spurs are the result of toe-stubbing on hard surfaces, sometimes over a prolonged amount of time. Sometimes there are even underlying causes, like arthritis or plantar fascia strain. One might develop this condition after having excess foot stress as well. This is also called Plantar fasciitis. But no matter what caused you to be inflicted by such an annoyance, heel spurs can usually be treated with rest and regular stretching of that area by a physical therapist who could help you get back on your feet again soon!
Common causes of heel spurs include:
- A strained or stretched plantar fascia
- Shoes that lack support for the foot and heel
- Inadequate running shoes or poorly fitting shoes
- Gait Abnormality
- Wear and tear of soft tissues due to excessive strain
- Overuse injuries
- Existing foot conditions like Flat Feet, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, etc.
Who is at Risk of Developing Heel Spurs?
Some people are known to develop a heel spur. These people are often (but not always) athletes who engage in activities that require a lot of jumping, running, and/or pivoting. Other groups of people at an increased risk of developing a heel spur include:
- People who walk with an uneven gait
- Runners and joggers (especially if running for long periods on a hard surface)
- Older adults and seniors
- Anyone with a chronic inflammatory disease, such as diabetes and gout
- People who have flat feet or high arches
- Poor general health
- People who are overweight
- Athletes and active individuals
Heel Spur Symptoms
Although some people with heel spurs feel pain, others do not notice any symptoms. If a painful heel spur is troubling you, be assured that the right treatment can alleviate your discomfort. A painful heel spur may cause problems with balance, coordination, and walking when there are signs of a heel spur.
Luckily, physical therapy and certain exercises may give you relief from symptoms.
The most common symptoms of heel spurs are:
How do you know if you have a heel spur?
- Chronic pain or intermittent pain
- Inflammation in the foot and ankle
- Tenderness around the heel, particularly where the heel and arch meet
- Sharp pain in the heel when standing up, particularly first thing in the morning
- Pain on the bottom of the heel
Diagnosing Your Foot Pain
Speaking with your doctor is a good idea if you are experiencing any type of pain in your foot or heel. When you talk to your doctor, they may ask you some questions about your medical history and may thoroughly assess the area where you have pain. Depending on their findings, they’ll provide treatment options that can include medications, physical therapy, and injections.
If the heel spur is dismissed, your physician may hear your concerns and explain that the pain you experience in the bottom of your foot could be caused by other factors. For example, they may tell you that plantar fasciitis could also cause similar symptoms.
Preventing Heel Spurs
- Warm-up with a herbal heating pad thoroughly before activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting additional stress on your feet.
- Wear comfortable shoes that fit your feet.
- Seek treatment for any inflammatory disease.
- Stretch regularly, particularly if playing sports or exercising.
- Invest in insoles or orthotics for further support.
Recovering from a Heel Spur
Heel pain can limit your ability to participate in the activities you love and the way you go about life, but don’t worry! Relieving your heel pain doesn’t have to be complicated. With simple remedies at home, such as staying off your feet or using cold therapy packs, or wearing shoes that fit well and are comfortable, you can manage your ailment without having to seek more extreme treatments like surgery. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications are also other ways of managing your symptoms and preventing further injury with these options being deemed conservative treatments as they don’t involve invasive procedures.
If you’re suffering from any sort of heel pain right now, consider resting your feet for a bit or wearing shoes that won’t aggravate either the pain or associated symptoms like inflammation and inflammation. Don’t forget to bring up any questions or concerns with your doctor and look into a few different options for insoles that can keep you healthier overall in the long run.