A calcaneal spur (or heel spur) is a small osteophyte (bone spur) located on the calcaneus (heel bone). Calcaneal spurs are typically detected by a radiological examination (X-ray). When a foot bone is exposed to constant stress, calcium deposits build up on the bottom of the heel bone. Generally, this has no effect on a person's daily life. However, repeated damage can cause these deposits to pile up on each other,causing a spur-shaped deformity, called a calcaneal (or heel) spur. Obese people, flatfooted people, and women who constantly wear high-heeled shoes are most susceptible to heel spurs. An inferior calcaneal spur is located on the inferior aspect of the calcaneus and is typically a response to plantar fasciitis over a period, but may also be associated with ankylosing spondylitis (typically in children). A posterior calcaneal spur develops on the back of the heel at the insertion of the Achilles tendon. An inferior calcaneal spur consists of a calcification of the calcaneus, which lies superior to the plantar fascia at the insertion of the plantar fascia. A posterior calcaneal spur is often large and palpable through the skin and may need to be removed as part of the treatment of insertional Achilles tendonitis. These are also generally visible to the naked eye.
Heel spurs are common in patients who have a history of foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis. In the setting of plantar fasciitis, heel spurs are most often seen in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups. The heel spur itself is not thought to be the primary cause of pain, rather inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia is thought to be the primary problem. A heel spur diagnosis is made when an X-ray shows a hook of bone protruding from the bottom of the foot at the point where the plantar fascia is attached to the heel bone.
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 thorough history and physical exam is always necessary for the proper diagnosis of heel spurs and other foot conditions. X rays of the heel area are helpful, as excess bone production will be visible.
Non Surgical Treatment
The key is to identify what is causing excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over-pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support will help reduce the over-pronation and thus allow the condition to heal. Other common treatments for heel spurs include Stretching exercises. Losing weight. Wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel that absorbs shock. Elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle, heel cup, or orthotics. For example, heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort and cushion to the heel, reducing the amount of shock and shear forces experienced from everyday activities.
Sometimes bone spurs can be surgically removed or an operation to loosen the fascia, called a plantar fascia release can be performed. This surgery is about 80 percent effective in the small group of individuals who do not have relief with conservative treatment, but symptoms may return if preventative measures (wearing proper footwear, shoe inserts, stretching, etc) are not maintained.
In order to prevent heel spurs, it?s important that you pay attention to the physical activities you engage in. Running or jogging on hard surfaces, such as cement or blacktop, is typical for competitive runners, but doing this for too long without breaks can lead to heel spurs and foot pain. Likewise, the shoes you wear can make a big difference in whether or not you develop heel spurs. Have your shoes and feet checked regularly by our Dallas podiatrist to ensure that you are wearing the proper equipment for the activities. Regular checkups with a foot and ankle specialist can help avoid the development of heel spurs.