What are Heel Spurs, and How are they Treated?

by | Oct 25, 2017

When you were a kid, did you ever get blamed for something that wasn’t your fault? Let’s say you walked out onto the playground during a scuffle, and barely had time to stand there in shock before the teacher rushed in and, somehow, singled you out. We can’t say for sure, but that’s probably what it feels like to be a heel spur.

See, when it comes to heel pain, heel spurs tend to play the role of a bystander at the scene of the crime. Although they are often present in cases of chronic heel pain, they are generally a byproduct of that pain, rather than the cause. Yet by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, spurs often shoulder much of the blame for an aching heel!

What are heel spurs? They’re pointed, bony deposits of calcium that build up on the surface of the bone. They tend to be long, pointed, and can jut forward as much as half an inch from the bottom of the heel bone. While this sounds like it would be painful, the truth is that it usually isn’t. Instead, the real culprit—usually plantar fasciitis—painfully pulls and tears the soft tissue away from the bone, which provides the “opening” for the spur to form and grow.

Now, having said that, not all heel spurs are painless. About 5 percent or so do cause pain, usually because they’re especially long or in an especially sensitive spot. But if you have both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis, it’s usually safe to assume the latter is the main problem and address it first. In addition to rest, ice, and pain medications, treatments that we may recommend include physical therapy, stretching exercises, night splints, or custom orthotics. If pain resolves, you’re good. That spur can hang out as long as it wants.

But let’s say you happen to be one of the unlucky 5 percent with a more troublesome spur. What then? Again, non-surgical remedies like orthotics might help prevent discomfort. However, in rare cases, you might need surgical treatment. We do remove heel spurs on occasion; in other situations, it might be better to “release” part of a tight tendon or ligament to prevent excess pulling on the heel.

Either way, if your heel hurts you should always get it checked by a professional—whether that pain is caused by a spur or something else. The longer you let things slide, the worse it’ll get, and that spur may become long enough to do some damage on its own. To schedule an appointment with the Waukesha Foot Specialists, give us a call today at (262) 544-0700.

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