Heel spurs: What you need to know

A heel spur is a condition in which a calcium deposit arises between the foot’s heel and arch. What are the signs and symptoms of heels spurs, and what factors enhance a person’s chances of getting them?

Spurs on the heels can occur on their own or as a result of an underlying health condition. People frequently think that heel spurs are to blame for any heel discomfort, but other reasons might also contribute to heel pain.

The symptoms of heel spurs, as well as other causes of heel discomfort, are discussed in this article. It also goes into the condition’s causes, risk factors, and treatments.

What is it?

heel spur

The underside of a person’s foot might develop a bony protrusion known as a heel spur. Calcaneal spurs or osteophytes are other names for them.

Heel spurs come in a number of different forms, including pointy, hooked, and shelf-like. A heel spur is a growth that extends from the bottom of the heel to the arch (the middle of the foot). The plantar fascia is the name for this part of the foot.

A heel spur can be up to half an inch long when observed on an X-ray. If an X-ray cannot confirm a suspected heel spur, the condition is referred to as “heel spur syndrome.”

Causes

Long-term muscular and ligament tension wears down the soft tissues of the heel, resulting in heel spurs. Another cause is tearing the membrane that protects the heel bone.

With aging, the heel might become more susceptible. The cushions in the heel wear down and fail to offer shock absorption as a person ages, according to a 2015 study on heel discomfort.

Calcium deposits can form under the heel over time. Heel spurs are the result of these deposits becoming bony protrusions.

Symptoms

Heel spurs can cause the following symptoms:

  • heat radiating from the affected area
  • small, visible bone-like protrusion under the heel
  • sharp pain like a knife in the heel when standing up in the morning
  • point of tenderness at the bottom of the heel that makes it hard to walk barefoot
  • a dull ache in the heel throughout the rest of the day
  • inflammation and swelling at the front of the heel

If a person has these symptoms, a doctor may order an X-ray of their foot to figure out what’s wrong. The only method to tell if someone has heel spurs is to look at the protrusion on an X-ray.

All of these symptoms are not experienced by everyone who has a heel spur. Heel spurs might cause no symptoms at all in some people. If these people receive an X-ray for another reason, they may not realize they have heel spurs.

Risk factors

 running and jumping
Athletic activity like running and leaping might put you at risk for heel spurs.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of heel spurs. These are some of them:

  • Getting older: A 2008 study found heel spurs to be common in older men and women.
  • Being female: A 2014 study found that heel spurs are more common in women than men.
  • Being overweightResearchers also found that heel spurs were related to obesity.
  • Improper footwear: Frequently wearing shoes that do not fit properly, have lost their support, or are not supportive, such as flip-flops, can lead to heel spurs.
  • Athletic activities: Running and jumping can wear down the heel and arch of the foot.
  • Activity on hard surfaces: Frequently walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces can wear down the heel.
  • Trauma to the heel: Bruising the heel and tearing the membrane that covers it can lead to heel spurs.

Heel spurs can also be caused by some underlying medical issues. These are some of them:

  • diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis
  • plantar fasciitis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • reactive arthritis (Reiter’s disease)

Plantar fasciitis vs. heel spurs

Heel spurs are frequently mistaken with plantar fasciitis, a condition that affects the feet. Heel spurs are more likely to develop in people who have plantar fasciitis. People with plantar fasciitis are more likely to develop heel spurs.

Plantar fasciitis affects up to 15% of people who have foot issues that require medical treatment.

Between heel spurs and plantar fasciitis, there are several important distinctions to be made. A heel spur is a calcium deposit on the plantar fascia that generates a bony protrusion.

Plantar fasciitis, on the other hand, is a condition in which the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and swollen, causing heel discomfort.

The plantar fascia is commonly described as a bowstring-like tissue by doctors. It runs beneath the sole and connects to the heel. Plantar fasciitis is caused by an abnormal amount of force being applied to this area of the foot.

Significant force can be caused by a variety of causes, including:

  • wearing shoes that do not support the arch of the foot
  • walking or otherwise exercising the foot for a very long time
  • being obese

Diabetes increases your chances of developing plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis normally resolves on its own. Heel spurs, on the other hand, are irreversible unless they are treated surgically.

Treatment

Resting the feet
The swelling and discomfort of heel spurs can be reduced by resting the feet.

Heel spurs can be treated in a variety of ways, including:

  • Using custom-made orthotics (shoe inserts): These donut-shaped inserts go inside the shoe to take the pressure off the heel.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication: This helps to reduce swelling.
  • Wearing cushioned sports shoes: These may also help to relieve pressure and reduce pain.
  • Cortisone injections: These reduce swelling and pain in the affected area. They are a stronger option if over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication is not effective.
  • Rest: Getting plenty of rest and taking pressure off the feet can help to reduce pain and swelling in the affected area.
  • Applying ice: This can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • In certain circumstances, surgery to remove the heel spur is required. However, the therapies listed above are typically successful, and surgery is rarely required.

Treatments for the underlying condition, if heel spurs are caused by an inflammatory type of arthritis, may also help to alleviate symptoms.

Conclusion

Heel spurs have a promising outlook. Unless surgically removed, the calcium deposit will remain, although this is usually not a concern because therapies to minimize pain and swelling are usually successful.

If addressing the symptoms isn’t working, surgery to remove the heel spur is an option.

Sources:

  • http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1008127515000437
  • https://jfootankleres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1757-1146-1-7
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320411
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3687890/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24629226

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