Heel Spur – causes, symptoms, precautions, and treatment

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heel spur

A heel spur occurs when we have a calcium deposit on the edge of the bone which is ending in heel tissue. The heel spur is also common among runners, athletes, long jumpers, people who stand for long durations, obesity, and age above 65 years. The problem is frequently associated with plantar fasciitis too.

Causes

  • Calcium deposit buildup on the underside of the heel bone.
  • Strains on foot muscles and ligaments.
  • Stretching of plantar fascia
  • Tearing of membrane that covers heel bone due to physical activity or injury.
  • Tearing of membrane due to running or jumping and inadequate rest between training.
  • Gain abnormalities which places undue stress on heel bone, ligaments and nerves.
  • Running, jogging or walking on hard surfaces.
  • Poorly fitted shoes with less or no cushioning.
  • Obesity or excess weight
  • Ageing and losing flexibility of ligaments and tendons. Also with age protective fat padding reduces.
  • Diabetes.
  • Having high arch or flat foot.

Symptoms

Generally, it has no symptoms but can have intermittent or chronic pain especially while walking, jogging, running, or standing for long durations. The cause of pain is not heel spur but damaged soft tissue injury associated with it.

Pain is generally like a pin sticking or a knife piercing in the heel area which is worst in the morning at the first step. This pain becomes dull or fades away. The pain returns when one keeps standing up for long or on standing up after sitting for a prolonged period of time.

What causes pain

Heel spur poorly responds to rest although it is necessary to stop further deterioration of the condition. The reason behind pain after a rest period is, when we put the load on the foot after prolonged rest, the plantar fascia suddenly elongates which stretches and pulls on the heel. This causes pain. As we walk a bit, the pain fades away or reduces. However, pain comes back after either prolonged rest or extensive running or walking.

Treatment

  • Stretching of Planta Fascia and other ligaments of foot.
  • Shoes with better cushioning at heels and well fitted.
  • Strapping or taping to rest muscles and tendons. One can use crape bandage or kinesiology tape.
  • Using shoe inserts or orthotic devices.
  • Laser therapy physiotherapy.
  • Using night splints
  • NSAID after taking opinion from your doctor
  • If nothing is helping one can use corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.

Immediate temporary relief

As mentioned above, the pain is basically due to injury in the heel tissue. The tear causes inflammation which is the real cause of pain. Hence we need to reduce inflammation which will result in the reduction of pain. Although this relief will be temporary, it can be done in order to allow other treatments to take the course. Ice treatment for the first week and later hot water fermentation twice a day can help reduce fermentation. Remember heel tissue is thick and hence adequate time must be given to ice/ hot water fermentation treatment in each session. Infrared heating or laser physiotherapy can also reduce inflammation and speed up the repair process.

Prevention of heel spur

One can take simple measures to prevent it. Those involved in physical activity or susceptible because of the reasons listed above must take extra precautions. 

  • Use well fitted shoes.
  • Add shock absorbers if shoe cushioning is less.
  • Avoid walking or running on hard surfaces.
  • Choose appropriate shoe as per physical activity.
  • Warmup and stretching before any physical activity is a must.
  • Do not over do any physical activity.
  • Have adequate periods of rest between two training successions which put more stress on heel.
  • Reduce weight if you are overweight.
  • Keep sugar levels under check.

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