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Heel Spurs

What are heel spurs?

Heel spurs are small deposits of bone-like calcium on the heel bone (calcaneus), usually on or near the bottom of the foot where the long tendons of the arches (plantar fascia) insert into the bone.

What causes heel spurs?

Some experts believe that a spur is the body's attempt to strengthen its foundation. Being overweight, having abnormal foot biomechanics, or running regularly on hard surfaces can cause excessive stress on the foot, which may lead to the production of a spur. Other authorities contend that spurs are a normal part of the aging process: some studies have shown that calcaneal spurs are more frequently found in people after age 50. The best data currently available projects that between 11% and 16% of the population have heel spurs. It is also interesting to note that spurs occur almost twice as often in adult females as they do in adult males.

Is the pain in my heel area caused by a heel spur?

Only a health care professional, such as your healthcare professional, can answer that question in regard to your case. In general, a heel spur may contribute to pain on the underside of the heel, which sometimes radiates throughout the entire bottom of the foot. In the morning, the first few steps after waking up may feel tender. Some improvement might be noticed after that, however, the pain often returns and intensifies during the day, especially while standing or walking. This pain is usually relieved by rest. The bottom or sides of the heel may be tender to the touch; a slight swelling may be noticed, and it may hurt to wiggle your toes.

Should an x-ray be taken of my foot?

Part of the thorough examination you receive may include an x-ray of your foot; this can help your doctor rule out any unusual causes of heel pain, such as a calcaneal cyst or a stress fracture. Again, your healthcare professional is the best person to decide if an x-ray is advisable.

What can my healthcare professional do to stop the pain?

The treatment you receive will probably focus in general on reducing swelling, relieving pain, restoring functional movement and position through joint mobilization, protecting your foot from additional stress, and strengthening your foundation. Depending on your specific condition, your healthcare professional may instruct you to do some or all of the following items after you leave the clinic:

  • Rest: a decrease or stoppage of running and jumping exercises is often indicated.
  • Ice the heel, to help bring down any swelling.
  • Exercise, to help build muscle strength and joint stability. The Thera-Ciser™ Therapeutic Exercise System is often recommended by healthcare professionals for heel spur conditions. Thera-Ciser is easy to use at home, and can be used to strengthen the foot arch, which helps keep the foot posturally stable.
  • Wear orthotics to protect the heel and to help the adjustments hold better. Stabilizers for this condition can be designed to provide a protective "cushion" around the heel area, and also change your foot's posture to help take pressure off the spurs and make you more comfortable.

Should my spurs be surgically removed?

Because most cases of heel spurs respond favorably to conservative care, surgery isn't usually recommended. Again, Dr. Schuster will be able to make an informed recommendation in this matter.

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