Heel spurs are small, bony deposits of calcium that build up on the heel bone, also known as the calcaneus. Spurs grow slowly, usually over the course of many months. They may appear either pointed or hooked, and while most only reach a few millimeters in length, some may grow to half an inch or more.
Most heel spurs are located along the underside of the heel bone, pointing forward toward the toes. These are called inferior calcaneal spurs. A second, rarer type called a posterior calcaneal spur can form at the back of the heel, near the insertion point of the Achilles tendon.
Why Do Heel Spurs Form?
Almost all heel spurs form as a secondary complication of a separate, painful soft tissue injury. For example, many people develop a spur on the bottom their heel after a period of chronic plantar fasciitis. This condition stretches, tears, inflames, and pulls the plantar fascia tissue at its attachment point with the heel bone, and creates the opportunity for hard, bony deposits of calcium to form there. A spur at the back of the heel may form for similar reasons, alongside a case of Achilles tendinitis.
How Are Heel Spurs Treated?
It is important to establish that, in more than 90% of cases, the heel pain that you feel is not related to the spur itself, but the soft tissue injuries that formed it. The first step is to treat the underlying condition conservatively, and see if that eliminates your pain. Common treatments we may provide include rest, medication (oral or injections), stretching exercises, or if necessary, splints or custom orthotics. If these remedies resolve the discomfort, there’s no reason to pursue further measures.
In a small percentage of cases, however, the heel spur continues to cause pain after the initial soft tissue injury or condition has healed. This might be the case if the spur is especially long, pointed, or located in a sensitive location. If conservative care has failed over an extended period of time, we may consider a surgical procedure to either remove the spur, release a tight tendon or ligament, or both. Every situation is a little different, so your surgeon will make a recommendation based on the particulars of your condition.
Don’t Let Your Pain Control You
Are you greeted by agonizing heel pain with your first steps of the morning, after exercise, or after a long day on your feet? Waukesha’s expert podiatrists at Waukesha Foot Specialists can help. Give us a call today at (262) 544-0700 to set up your appointment, or request one online.