Approximately 10 per cent of the population may have heel spurs without any heel pain. Whilst recent research has raised the question of whether or not heel spurs are the result of the body trying to
increase its base of support, heel spurs are still considered to be the result from strain on the muscles of the foot (in particular the plantar fascia). This may result from a biomechanical
imbalance, such as over pronation.
Causes of Heel Spur Syndrome are mostly due to your foot structure. Foot structure is due to hereditary for the most part, meaning it was the way you were when born. Other factors such as increase in
weight, injury, improper shoes, or different activities may change the way your foot functions as well. If one leg is longer or shorter than the other, this may make your foot function improperly and
be the cause of the heel spur syndrome. Improper shoes may be ones that are new or ones that are worn out and do not give good support. The higher priced shoes do not mean it's a better shoe.
Pronation is a term used to describe a foot which allows the arch to fall more than normal and allows for the fascia along the bottom of the foot to put a tighter pull or a different angle of pull on
the heel bone. Over time, this constant pull of the tight fascia can force the bone to enlarge and form a spur. It is not the heel spur that causes the pain directly. The spur may cause pressure
against a nearby nerve causing a neuritis, or a bursa causing a bursitis.
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.
A heel spur is often seen on X-ray as a bony protrusion, which can vary in size. However, because a Heel Spur only indicates increased load on the plantar fascia, and not pain, an ultra sound may be
required to assess other actual cause of the heel pain such and may include checking to see if the plantar fascia is inflamed or degenerated.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are various ways to treat heel spurs. The first is to rest and apply ice to the afflicted area. Shoe inserts and night splints can also treat plantar fasciitis, and in turn, heels spurs. Unless
you have stomach sensitivities, you may want to consider taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as naprosyn to lower the swelling. A physical therapist can recommend gentle
exercises and stretches to relax the tissue around the heel bone to relieve the tension. Even with these treatments, a stubborn heel spur may not go away. A physical therapist may decide to inject
cortisone into the area to decrease inflammation, but that can cause other problems such as plantar fascial rupture and fat pad atrophy. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is also an option, which
uses energy pulses to apply microtrauma around the heel spur. Surgery is also an option but is not suggested unless the heel spur lasts more than a year. To prevent heel spurs from returning, shoe
inserts can relieve the pressure on the plantar fascia. Also continue the recommended stretches and exercises.
When chronic heel pain fails to respond to conservative treatment, surgical treatment may be necessary. Heel surgery can provide relief of pain and restore mobility. The type of procedure used is
based on examination and usually consists of releasing the excessive tightness of the plantar fascia, called a plantar fascia release. Depending on the presence of excess bony build up, the procedure
may or may not include removal of heel spurs. Similar to other surgical interventions, there are various modifications and surgical enhancements regarding surgery of the heel.