The heel spur (or calcaneal spur) is a nail-like growth of calcium around the ligaments and tendons of the foot where they attach to the heel bone. The spur grows from the bone and into the flesh of the foot. A heel spur results from an anatomical change of the calcaneus (heel bone). This involves the area of the heel and occasionally, another disability, such as arthritis. The heel bone forms one end of the two longitudinal arches of the foot. These arches are held together by ligaments and are activated by the muscles of the foot (some of which are attached beneath the arches and run from the front to the back of the foot). These muscles and ligaments, like the other supporting tissues of the body, are attached in two places. Many are attached at the heel bone. The body reacts to the stress at the heel bone by calcifying the soft tissue attachments and creating a spur.
One frequent cause of heel spurs is an abnormal motion and mal-alignment of the foot called pronation. For the foot to function properly, a certain degree of pronation is required. This motion is defined as an inward action of the foot, with dropping of the inside arch as one plants the heel and advances the weight distribution to the toes during walking. When foot pronation becomes extreme from the foot turning in and dropping beyond the normal limit, a condition known as excessive pronation creates a mechanical problem in the foot. In some cases the sole or bottom of the foot flattens and becomes unstable because of this excess pronation, especially during critical times of walking and athletic activities. The portion of the plantar fascia attached into the heel bone or calcaneous begins to stretch and pull away from the heel bone.
It is important to be aware that heel spurs may or may not cause symptoms. Symptoms are usually related to the plantar fasciitis. You may experience significant pain and it may be worse in the morning when you first wake up or during certain physical activities such as, walking, jogging, or running.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by your physiotherapist or sports doctor based on your symptoms, history and clinical examination. After confirming your heel spur or plantar fasciitis they will investigate WHY you are likely to be predisposed to heel spurs and develop a treatment plan to decrease your chance of future bouts. X-rays will show calcification or bone within the plantar fascia or at its insertion into the calcaneus. This is known as a calcaneal or heel spur. Ultrasound scans and MRI are used to identify any plantar fasciitis tears, inflammation or calcification. Pathology tests may identify spondyloarthritis, which can cause symptoms similar to plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Exercise. If you think your pain is exercise-related, change your exercise routine, environment, or foot-ware, and emphasize movements and/or body parts that do not cause pain. Mind/Body. Occasionally foot pain can be related to stress. The body may respond with generalized tension that contributes to pain in many areas, including the feet. Hypnosis and guided imagery are worth exploring if an anatomical problem is not apparent. Supplements. Natural anti-inflammatories can be just as effective as ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain relievers with fewer side effects. Try one of the following. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) standardized to 5-6% gingerols and 6% shogoals, take one to two 500 mg tablets three to four times daily. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) standardized to 95% curcuminoids, take 400-600 mg three times daily. Also, be sure that you're wearing well-fitting shoes, the proper shoes for each activity, and that you buy new foot-ware as soon as you notice signs of wear. You can also take the pressure off your heel with a donut-shaped heel cushion or a heel-raising pad placed in your shoe. Acupuncture can also relieve the pain, as can for some sufferers, magnetic shoe inserts, although the evidence behind their effectiveness is not conclusive. Osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation can help with soft tissue pain in and around the feet.
In a small number of cases (usually less than 5 percent), patients may not experience relief after trying the recommendations listed above. It is important that conservative treatments (such as those listed above) be performed for AT LEAST a year before considering surgery. Time is important in curing the pain from heel spurs, and insufficient treatment before surgery may subject you to potential complications from the procedure. If these treatments fail, your doctor may consider an operation to loosen the plantar fascia, called a plantar fascia release.