A heel spur (or osteophyte) is a small bony growth or collection of bony growths on the back or underside of the heel. They may or may not cause pain, and patients often confuse heel spurs with a
related condition known as plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the band of tissue that stretches from the ball of the foot to the heel, forming the arch. Many people have bone spurs without ever
knowing it, and about 70 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis who do have discomfort will also be found to have a heel spur when observed via X-ray. It is likely that a bone spur forms as the
body tries to repair itself from repeated injury by laying down extra bone at the site of trauma. Plantar fasciitis is typically another result of such trauma. Heel spurs are most often seen in
middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups.
The calcaneal spur is seen most often in persons over the age of 40. The condition can also be associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, poor circulation of the blood and other
degenerative diseases. Men and women are equally likely to have them.
The spur itself is not painful, however, if it is sharp and pointed it can poke into soft tissue surrounding the spur itself. As the bone spur irritates the tissue, inflammation and bruising can
occur leading to heel pain. Heel spurs can affect your ability to do your usual work and/or activities, and can also trap and irritate the nerves in your heel area. They can change the way you walk,
and can lead to knee, hip and low back injuries. If severe, they may require medical intervention.
Diagnosis of a heel spur can be done with an x-ray, which will be able to reveal the bony spur. Normally, it occurs where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone. When the plantar fascia
ligament is pulled excessively it begins to pull away from the heel bone. When this excessive pulling occurs, it causes the body to respond by depositing calcium in the injured area, resulting in the
formation of the bone spur. The Plantar fascia ligament is a fibrous band of connective tissue running between the heel bone and the ball of the foot. This structure maintains the arch of the foot
and distributes weight along the foot as we walk. However, due to the stress that this ligament must endure, it can easily become damaged which commonly occurs along with heel spurs.
Non Surgical Treatment
Since heel spurs are not an indication of pain themselves unless fractured, treatment is usually aimed at the cause of the pain which in many cases is plantar fasciosis. Treatment of plantar
fasciiosis includes; rest until the pain subsides, special stretching exercises and if required orthotics may be prescribed.
Usually, heel spurs are curable with conservative treatment. If not, heel spurs are curable with surgery, although there is the possibility of them growing back. About 10% of those who continue to
see a physician for plantar fascitis have it for more than a year. If there is limited success after approximately one year of conservative treatment, patients are often advised to have surgery.