Heel Spur Pain & Your Best Options For Treatment
While running and leaping are superb for maintaining a healthy heart, your heels may not appreciate them as much.
Regularly pounding hard surfaces can cause a bony protrusion called a heel spur to form on the base of your heel bone. Fortunately, this growth is often painless and does not require treatment. For some people though, these spurs can truly be an annoying nuisance as they inflame the surrounding tissue and create persistent or recurrent discomfort levels. If you find yourself in this situation, running may no longer be feasible due to the unbearable suffering it causes.
What is a heel spur?
Approximately 15% of the population suffer from a heel spur, which is an unsightly bony protrusion that extends from beneath your heel bone and connects to the plantar fascia located between your foot and its corresponding ball. This condition can be quite uncomfortable for those affected by it.
Heel spurs don’t usually present themselves until the individual is already feeling pain. As such, it’s often a surprise to find out that your discomfort is actually due to heel spurs. Despite its potentially serious implication and removal only being possible through surgery, healthcare experts suggest going with non-surgical treatments as an initial course of action for ease in symptom management associated with this condition.
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What causes heel spurs?
Heel spurs can be caused by:
- The constant strain on foot muscles and ligaments
- The plantar fascia, a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs the length of your foot from heel to toe, is subjected to strain.
- Membranes that cover the heel bone tear
Continuous activity such as running can create calcium deposits on the bottom of your heel bone, which in turn results in a protrusion that causes inflammation. Heel spurs don’t just affect professional athletes; they also occur due to:
- Gait abnormalities that stress the feet.
- Jogging or running on hard surfaces.
- Poorly fitting shoes.
- Obesity or excess weight.
- Standing a lot on your feet.
- Flat feet or high arches.
- Increasing age and diabetes.
Symptoms of Heel Spurs
Although heel spurs are mostly symptomless, they can cause painful inflammation when engaging in activities such as walking, running, or jogging. The discomfort is not due to the spur itself but rather from the damage caused by its presence. Thus individuals with heel spurs should be aware of their potential for creating pain and proceed with caution when performing any physical activity that may have an effect on them.
For those dealing with heel spurs or plantar fasciitis, the pain can be incredibly intense. It is often described as a stabbing sensation in the bottom of their feet when they first rise in the morning – an ache that slowly subsides but then returns if they remain seated for extended periods.
Read more articles about heel pain.
What are the risk factors for heel spurs?
Heel spurs can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which are modifiable and others that cannot. Taking proactive steps to reduce these risks is essential in preventing the formation of heel spurs.
Related: Causes and Treatment for Heel Pain when Walking
Changes you can enact immediately
- If you’re a jogger or runner, it’s wise to opt for softer surfaces like grass and tracks instead of hard concrete pathways.
- Wear footwear that is comfortable and provides optimal arch support.
- If you walk on the tile or hardwood floors, it’s important to wear slippers or shoes for comfort and safety.
- Shift your gait so you can place less load on the heels of your feet.
Gradual change you can make
- Shed those extra pounds to lessen the burden on your feet.
- Shake up your daily routine to give your feet a break.
- As you age, your plantar fascia becomes less pliable and is more prone to injury or even the development of plantar fasciitis.
- Over time, the natural fat pad cushions that protect your feet from impact begin to diminish.
- You are struggling with a wide foot or high arches.
Heel spur treatments
Treatment options range from mechanical to surgical methods, but fortunately, 90% of people with heel spurs heal without needing an operation.
Here are some of the most conventional, non-invasive treatments for heel spurs.
- Stretching exercises, especially before bed
- Physical therapy
- Ice packs after walking and exercise
- To reduce inflammation, over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can be a safe and effective method.
- Injections of anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone
- Giving your feet a much-needed break.
- Orthotic shoe inserts are an essential way to provide arch support
Prevention of Heel Spurs
Avoid heel spurs by wearing shoes that fit well and have shock-absorbing soles, rigid shanks, and supportive heel counters; selecting the right shoe for each activity you engage in; warming up before activities with stretches; and pacing yourself while participating.
To avoid developing heel spurs, be sure to wear shoes that do not have excessive wear on the heels and soles. Additionally, if you are overweight, taking steps to reduce your weight may also prove beneficial in this regard.
Related: Uncovering the Causes of Heel Pain: A Practical Guide to Differential Diagnosis
In conclusion, heel spurs can be a painful and disruptive condition. While they are often symptomless, they can cause severe discomfort when engaging in activities such as walking or running. To reduce the risk of developing heel spurs, it is essential to wear shoes that fit properly and provide adequate support. Additionally, taking steps to reduce excess weight and performing stretches before physical activity can help to prevent the formation of heel spurs. If you are already suffering from heel spurs, there are a variety of treatments available to provide relief and promote healing.
To ensure your feet remain healthy and comfortable, it is important to take preventive measures whenever possible. By doing so, you can limit the potential of developing heel spurs and reduce the severity of any pain you may experience.