A heel spur is a hook of bone that protrudes from the bottom of the foot at the place where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone. Pain associated with heel spurs is usually pain from plantar fasciitis and not the actual bone. Heel spurs are most often diagnosed when a patient is receiving treatment for pain to plantar fasciitis. Spurs are diagnosed via X-ray.
Heel spurs are most commonly found in middle age and effect men and women evenly. As already noted, plantar fasciitis is, generally, the root cause of bone spurs, and it occurs when the fascia, a thick connective tissue that connects the heel bone and ball of the foot, becomes inflamed. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of plantar fasciitis patients have a bone spur.
Bone spurs are soft calcium deposits caused from tension in the plantar fascia. When they are discovered on an X-ray, they are also used to diagnose plantar fasciitis, which is caused by repetitive stress. Walking, running and dancing can all exacerbate this condition.
Treatments for bone spurs and plantar fasciitis include:
- Stretching the calf muscles several times daily is critical in providing tension relief for the plantar fascia. Some physicians may recommend using a step to stretch, while others may encourage yoga or pushing against a wall to stretch.
Icing after activity. A frozen tennis ball can provide specific relief. Rolling the tennis ball under the arch of the foot after exercise can lessen pain in the area.
- Taping is also recommended at times. Several manufacturers of sports tape have plantar fascia specific lines.
- Orthotics are a good idea for those on their feet during the day. They can provide cushioning and relief.
- Cortisone shots in the fascia can provide temporary anti-inflammatory relief.
- Losing weight is perhaps the most effective method of improving heel and foot pain. Those overweight are far more likely to report these syndromes.
Causes for heel spurs (and plantar fasciitis) are: a sudden increase in activity, lack of arch support or poor shoe choice, injury, inflexibility in Achilles tendon and calf muscles and spending too many hours on the feet for several days in a row. Also, arthritis from aging is often a common cause of bone loss and natural cushioning under the heel. Tarsal tunnel syndrome can also be a culprit in bone spurs. In the United States, the cause is usually obesity. With more than 60 percent of the nation obese or morbidly obese, foot pain related to excessive weight, is quite common. Dietary changes can help with long-term relief for bone spurs and plantar fasciitis.