When patients with heel pain visit our office for the first time, they often ask about “heel spurs.” In fact, it’s pretty high on the list of diagnoses that patients think they might have.
As it turns out though, while heel spurs are not uncommon in people with chronic heel pain, they often aren’t the main cause of pain at all!
Confused? Don’t be. Read on to learn more about heel spurs and how we can help you with your pain.
What Is a Heel Spur?
A heel spur is outgrowth of hardy, bony material that protrudes forward from the front of the heel bone. Over time, calcium deposits build up on the heel, growing bigger and bigger.
Heel spurs are generally around a quarter of an inch in length, although the largest ones can reach half an inch or more.
What Causes Heel Spurs?
The majority of heel spurs are linked with plantar fasciitis—the true most common cause of heel pain in adults.
Plantar fasciitis results from inflammation and tearing of the plantar fascia, a long ligament that supports the arch and runs from the ball of the foot to the front of the heel bone.
The inflammation of plantar fasciitis creates a small separation between the ligament and the bone. One of the ways your body attempts to repair the perceived “loss” of soft tissue is by depositing calcium to fill the gap—in other words, to make a bone spur.
How Are Heel Spurs Diagnosed?
Normally, heel spurs cannot be positively diagnosed based purely on a physical examination. An X-ray or other diagnostic imagine technology will be needed to confirm the presence of a spur.
Do I Need Treatment for My Heel Spurs?
That depends on whether or not the spur itself is causing pain, or whether it’s a symptomless side effect of untreated plantar fasciitis.
Heel spurs that are symptomatic are associated with tenderness and pain when bearing weight. The spur itself doesn’t hurt, of course, but it can irritate surrounding tissues based on location.
That said, in most cases it’s really the plantar fasciitis that’s the problem. We’ll generally start you on treatment for that first. Typical care methods include stretching, wrapping, and physical therapy, and in some cases laser therapy.
Bones spurs do not go away on their own. However, if relieving your plantar fasciitis also relieves your pain, there’s no need to pursue any further treatment.
However, if conservative measures do not relieve your pain due to the spur pressing on nerve or other sensitive tissues, it may need to be removed surgically. This is a last resort; fortunately, it is rarely necessary.
Whenever your heels are hurting, trust McPherson’s premier podiatrist to get you back to doing what you love. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Trent Timson today by calling (620) 241-3313.