A heel spur is a hook that can form on the calcaneus (heel bone) and can also be related to plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tissue in the foot?s arch). People who have plantar fasciitis often develop heel spurs. Middle-aged men and women are more prone to heels spurs, but all age groups can be afflicted. Heel spurs can be found through an x-ray, revealing a protruding hook where the plantar fascia is located.
A bone spur forms as the body tries to repair itself by building extra bone. It generally forms in response to pressure, rubbing, or stress that continues over a long period of time. Some bone spurs form as part of the aging process. As we age, the slippery tissue called cartilage that covers the ends of the bones within joints breaks down and eventually wears away (osteoarthritis). Bone spurs due to aging are especially common in the joints of the spine and feet.
The Heel Spur itself is not thought to be painful. Patients who experience pain with Plantar Fasciitis are suffering from inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia. This the primary cause of pain and not the Heel Spur. Heel Spurs form in some patients who have plantar fasciitis, and tend to occur in patients who have had the problem for a prolonged period of time. While about 70 % of patients with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur, X-rays also show about 50 % of patients with no symptoms of plantar fasciitis also have a heel spur.
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 all.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are both conservative and surgical heel spur treatment options. Because the heel pain caused by heel spurs is symptomatic of inflammation, the first step is to ice the area in hopes to reduce the inflammation. The next step is to see our orthopedic specialist to prescribe an appropriate treatment plan. Some conservative treatment options might include Anti-inflammatory medications. Shoe orthotics. Shoe inserts. If conservative treatments are not working, surgery may be required to remove the heel spur. As in all cases of heel pain, it is important to see an orthopedic doctor who specializes in foot and ankle pain.
Surgery involves releasing a part of the plantar fascia from its insertion in the heel bone, as well as removing the spur. Many times during the procedure, pinched nerves (neuromas), adding to the pain, are found and removed. Often, an inflamed sac of fluid call an accessory or adventitious bursa is found under the heel spur, and it is removed as well. Postoperative recovery is usually a slipper cast and minimal weight bearing for a period of 3-4 weeks. On some occasions, a removable short-leg walking boot is used or a below knee cast applied.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can only be prevented by treating any underlying associated inflammatory disease.