Bone spurs are bony projections that develop along the edges of bones. Bone spurs (osteophytes) often form where bones meet each other - in your joints. They can also form on the bones of your spine. The main cause of bone spurs is the joint damage associated with osteoarthritis. Most bone spurs cause no symptoms and may go undetected for years. They may not require treatment. Decisions about treatment depend on where spurs are situated and how they affect your health.
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).
Heel spurs can be quite painful, but can just as likely occur with no symptoms at all. Plantar fasciitis is a contributing condition to heel spurs. The cause of the pain is not the heel spur itself but the soft-tissue injury associated with it. The feeling has been described as a knife or pin sticking into the bottom of your feet when you first stand up after sitting or laying down for a long period of time - a pain that later turns into a dull ache.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by your physiotherapist or sports doctor based on your symptoms, history and clinical examination. After confirming your heel spur or plantar fasciitis they will investigate WHY you are likely to be predisposed to heel spurs and develop a treatment plan to decrease your chance of future bouts. X-rays will show calcification or bone within the plantar fascia or at its insertion into the calcaneus. This is known as a calcaneal or heel spur. Ultrasound scans and MRI are used to identify any plantar fasciitis tears, inflammation or calcification. Pathology tests may identify spondyloarthritis, which can cause symptoms similar to plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Podiatric Care for heel spur syndrome may involve keeping the fascia stretched out by performing exercises. Your doctor may also suggest for you to be seen by a physical therapist. You probably will be advised on the best shoes to wear or some inserts for your shoes. Your podiatrist may suggest that a custom made orthotic be made to allow your foot to function in the most ideal way especially if you have excessive pronation. A heel lift may be used if you have a leg length discrepancy. Medical treatment may include anti-inflammatory oral medications or an injection of medication and local anesthetic to reduce the swelling and decrease pain. If a bursitis is present the medication may greatly improve the symptoms. Your podiatric physician may also recommend a surgical procedure to actually fix the structural problem of your foot.
Surgery involves releasing a part of the plantar fascia from its insertion in the heel bone, as well as removing the spur. Many times during the procedure, pinched nerves (neuromas), adding to the pain, are found and removed. Often, an inflamed sac of fluid call an accessory or adventitious bursa is found under the heel spur, and it is removed as well. Postoperative recovery is usually a slipper cast and minimal weight bearing for a period of 3-4 weeks. On some occasions, a removable short-leg walking boot is used or a below knee cast applied.
You can help prevent heel spur symptoms from returning by wearing the proper shoes. Customized orthotics and insoles can help relieve pressure. It is important to perform your exercises to help keep your foot stretched and relaxed.