Heel Spur: Symptoms and Treatment

A heel spur can be really annoying for those who suffer from it. It can cause a throbbing pain in the sole of the foot when walking.
Heel Spur: Symptoms and Treatment

Last update: 16 April, 2020

A heel spur can make it really difficult to walk. It’s a well-known pathology that affects many people, whether they’re athletes or not. In this article, you’ll find all of the necessary information to learn more about this condition.

What is a heel spur?

We can define a spur as a bony protrusion. People tend to use the term to refer to the protrusion that certain birds have on their legs. The calcaneus bone is located in the heel, therefore, a calcaneal spur is a bone protrusion that appears somewhere on the heel.

Heel spur causes

A spur happens when there’s calcification of the tendons. This means that the tendons degenerate and suffer damage due to excessive traction or loads; our body then replaces the fibers with harder tissue. It’s a way of compensating for the damage and preventing the tendons from breaking.

With this in mind, there are two types of heel spurs: one that appears at the base of the calcaneus bone, and another on the posterior part. The first one is much more common than the second; it happens due to the calcification of the plantar fascia, the tissues that run through the soles of the feet.

The first stage is plantar fasciitis, which will then turn into a spur when the damaged tissue is replaced by calcium. In the case of the second type, the Achilles tendon is the one that suffers the damage and calcifies.

What are the causes of the damage that our bodies try to compensate for?

  • First of all, we all have congenital pathologies. Suffering from pes cavus or valgus will predispose us to spurs due to an incorrect distribution of forces. We can also include rheumatic diseases or ligament laxity in this category, for the same reasons.
A woman holding her foot to ease the pain caused by a heel spur

  • Being overweight is another cause for the appearance of spurs. This is also due to the excessive pressure that the tendons of the foot must bear.
  • Wearing the wrong shoes is the third cause. A sole that doesn’t move along with the natural movement of the foot, or that doesn’t offer enough cushion for the sole, will inflict small and constant damages.
  • Finally, repeated exercises on hard surfaces can also cause damage. For example, constantly hitting the asphalt may eventually lead to these calcifying micro-tears.

The symptoms

The clearest symptom of this pathology is a throbbing pain on the sole of the foot. While the spur itself is painless, the inflammation of the tendons and the irritation of the tissues surrounding the spur will cause discomfort during every step we take.

The pain will get better with rest, but soon after we start walking again, and especially with the first steps, we’ll feel as if we’re stepping on a nail. As the main symptom is very similar to plantar fasciitis, we must get X-rays to determine if we have one condition or the other.

Heel spur treatment

There are many ways to approach the treatment of a heel spur. First of all, when the pain is very sharp and walking is uncomfortable, we should simply rest and take anti-inflammatory medication.

Then, we can go to a physical therapy consultation; they’ll help with a combination of stretches, hot or cold therapy, ultrasounds, shock waves, and lasers, among others. It all depends on whether it’s an acute or chronic process.

A patient getting physical therapy to treat a heel spur

Besides that, if the main cause is a problem with the curvatures of the foot, it’s advisable to visit a podiatrist who can prescribe a set of insoles. This will help to correct the way we step and, besides healing the spur, it’ll also prevent future pathologies.

As a last resort, there are analgesic infiltrations, in addition to surgical procedures to remove the spur. Once the problem is gone, we must be careful to avoid future recurrences.

As for prevention, besides insoles, we must try to lose weight if we’re overweight, and make sure we play sports wearing the appropriate footwear. A diet rich in magnesium, silicon, and zinc can also help, as those substances help to keep the muscles and tendons healthy.

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