A common cause of heel pain is the heel spur, a bony growth on the underside of the heel bone. The spur, visible by X-ray, appears as a protrusion that can extend forward as much as half an inch. When there is no indication of bone enlargement, the condition is sometimes referred to as "heel spur syndrome." Heel spurs result from strain on the muscles and ligaments of the foot, by stretching of the long band of tissue that connects the heel and the ball of the foot, and by repeated tearing away of the lining or membrane that covers the heel bone. These conditions may result from biomechanical imbalance, running or jogging, improperly fitted or excessively worn shoes, or obesity.
The main cause of heel spur is calcium deposit under the heel bone. Building of calcium deposits can take place over several months. Heel spurs happens because of stress on the foot ligaments and muscles and continuous tearing of the membrane covering the heel bone. It also happens due to continuous stretching the plantar fascia. Heel spurs are mostly seen in case of athletes who has to do lots of jumping and running. The risk factors that may lead to heel spurs include aormalities in walking which place too much stress on the heel bone, nerves in the heel and ligaments. Poorly fitted shoes without the right arch support. Jogging and running on hard surfaces. Excess weight. Older age. Diabetes. Standing for a longer duration.
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 is made using a few different technologies. X-rays are often used first to ensure there is no fracture or tumor in the region. Then ultrasound is used to check the fascia itself to make sure there is no tear and check the level of scar tissue and damage. Neurosensory testing, a non-painful nerve test, can be used to make sure there is not a local nerve problem if the pain is thought to be nerve related. It is important to remember that one can have a very large heel spur and no plantar fasciitis issues or pain at all, or one can have a great deal of pain and virtually no spur at all.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are both conservative and surgical heel spur treatment options. Because the heel pain caused by heel spurs is symptomatic of inflammation, the first step is to ice the area in hopes to reduce the inflammation. The next step is to see our orthopedic specialist to prescribe an appropriate treatment plan. Some conservative treatment options might include Anti-inflammatory medications. Shoe orthotics. Shoe inserts. If conservative treatments are not working, surgery may be required to remove the heel spur. As in all cases of heel pain, it is important to see an orthopedic doctor who specializes in foot and ankle pain.
Surgery involves releasing a part of the plantar fascia from its insertion in the heel bone, as well as removing the spur. Many times during the procedure, pinched nerves (neuromas), adding to the pain, are found and removed. Often, an inflamed sac of fluid call an accessory or adventitious bursa is found under the heel spur, and it is removed as well. Postoperative recovery is usually a slipper cast and minimal weight bearing for a period of 3-4 weeks. On some occasions, a removable short-leg walking boot is used or a below knee cast applied.