Heel Spurs | Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine

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Orthopaedic Specialties

Heel Spurs

Heel Spur diagramHeel spurs are a common foot ailment that is often confused with plantar fasciitis. While the two are similar and related, they are in fact separate diagnoses. Heel spurs are hooked, pointed, or shelf-shaped calcium deposits that form on the bone. The heel spurs themselves do not sense pain, rather they protrude and prod the soft tissues of the heel, causing pain and discomfort.

Causes and Symptoms of Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are a common ailment in patients who have a history of foot pain associated with plantar fasciitis. It occurs when the plantar fascia ligament, located on the arch of the foot, becomes fatigued, damaged, or inflamed. As this ligament is subjected to these stresses the body attempts to compensate through the buildup of calcium on the bone, leading to the formation of spurs. This is the body’s way of attempting to alleviate the stress on the worn ligament.

The condition can generally stem from the following issues:

  • An uneven gait which applies too much pressure to certain areas of the foot
  • Obesity, which can cause unnecessary pressure on the plantar fascia ligament
  • Wearing worn out shoes or ill-fitting footwear
  •  Job conditions that require long periods spent standing, lifting heavy objects, or even sitting for long periods of time
  • Exercising before warming up first
  • Repetitive impact against hard surfaces
  • The normal aging process which results in a decrease in ligament elasticity

Heel spurs often do not present any symptoms and are usually discovered with a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. The pain associated has been described as a sharp needle or knife like sensation. Many experience this pain after sitting for prolonged periods of time or on standing for the first thing in the morning. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain on the bottom of the foot, in particular, near the heel
  • Great pain after exercise or activity (not during)
  • Limited “upward” motion of your ankle
  • Pain that intensifies upon flexing the ankle upwards while placing pressure on the heel

Diagnoses and Treatment of Heel Spurs

A sharp pain in the heel region is often all that is needed to confirm the presence of heel spurs. Doctors may also use an x-ray to visually confirm their presence. Many patients often find relief in the form of non-operative treatments and only in extreme cases does it require surgery for their removal. Some simple treatments include:

  • Resting and avoiding activities that cause pain for a period of time
  • Applying ice to the heel pain to reduce swelling and subsequent irritation of the tissue heel spurssurrounding the spur
  • Stretching exercises to relax the tissue near the heal
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Custom shoe insert or orthotics
  • Night splints designed to stretch the heel

Again, surgery is often times a last resort for patients who cannot find relief in the noninvasive solutions mentioned above. The Foot and Ankle Center at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine have some of the best specialists and surgeons around. If you would like to make an appointment to treat or learn more about preventing and resolving foot pain, please contact us at 904-825-0540.