A bone spur (osteophyte) is a bony growth that forms along the edge of normal bone in response to wear and tear, most frequently in the joints. A heel spur is a bone spur of the heel bone, which causes heel pain by rubbing on the achilles tendon or other soft tissues.
The plantar fascia is a big strong ligament on the bottom of the foot, starting at the bottom of the heel bone and running into the ball of the foot. As the arch of the foot becomes weak, it sags slightly with each step and this causes the plantar fascia to tug and pull at the heel bone with each step. Over a period of time, a spur forms where this big strong ligament tugs and pulls at the heel bone. Soon, inflammation (swelling) starts around this spur and the pain becomes almost unbearable. (Sometimes heel spurs may be present without being painful if no inflammation is present).
Some symptoms at the beginning of this condition include pain and swelling, and discomfort when pushing off with the toes during walking. This movement of the foot stretches the fascia that is already irritated and inflamed. If this condition is not treated, pain will be noticed in the heel when a heel spur develops in response to the stress. This is a common condition among athletes and others who run and jump a significant amount.
Your doctor, when diagnosing and treating this condition will need an x-ray and sometimes a gait analysis to ascertain the exact cause of this condition. If you have pain in the bottom of your foot and you do not have diabetes or a vascular problem, some of the over-the-counter anti-inflammatory products such as Advil or Ibuprofin are helpful in eradicating the pain. Pain creams, such as Neuro-eze, BioFreeze & Boswella Cream can help to relieve pain and help increase circulation.
Non Surgical Treatment
Rest won?t help you in case of pain from the heel spur. When you get up after sleeping for some time, the pain may get worse. The pain worsens after a period of rest. You will feel pain because the plantar fascia elongates during working which stresses the heel. It is important to see a doctor if you are having consistent pain in you heel. The doctors may advise few or all of the conservative treatments, stretching exercises, shoe recommendations, shoe inserts or orthotic devices, physical therapy, taping or strapping to rest stressed muscles and tendons. There are some over-the-counter medicines available for treatment of heel pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) are some such medicines which can help you to get relief from the pain. In case of biomechanical imbalances causing the pain, a functional orthotic device can help you to get relief. Your doctor may also advise a corticosteroid injection for eliminating the inflammation.
Sometimes bone spurs can be surgically removed or an operation to loosen the fascia, called a plantar fascia release can be performed. This surgery is about 80 percent effective in the small group of individuals who do not have relief with conservative treatment, but symptoms may return if preventative measures (wearing proper footwear, shoe inserts, stretching, etc) are not maintained.
The best way to prevent heel spurs is by wearing properly fitted footwear. Shoes should have a shock absorbing tread and soles and should be effective in supporting the heel and arch. Proper warm up and stretching before embarking on any physical activity that will put pressure or impact on the area is highly recommended. Also, just as it?s important for your general health, if you can lose some extra pounds, you will be more likely to avoid heel spurs. If you are starting to feel the onset of pain, it may not be heel spurs, but could be a tendonitis condition that could lead to heel spurs.