Identifying Heel Spur

Posterior Calcaneal Spur

Overview

Although a heel spur is often thought to be the source of heel pain, it rarely is. When a patient has plantar fasciitis, the plantar fascia pulls on the bottom of the heel bone. Over time this can cause a spur to form. Heels spurs are a very common x-ray finding, and because the heel spur is buried deep in soft tissue and not truly in a weight bearing area, there is often no history of pain. It is important to note that less than one percent of all heel pain is due to a spur. but frequently caused by the plantar fascia pulling on the heel. Once the plantar fasciitis is properly treated, the heel spur could be a distant memory.

Causes

There exists a membrane that covers most of the bone along the heel. When this membrane gets torn repeatedly due to straining of the muscles in the foot, the calcium deposits that lead to heel spurs are more likely to occur.

Calcaneal Spur

Symptoms

Heel spurs are most noticeable in the morning when stepping out of bed. It can be described as sharp isolated pain directly below the heel. If left untreated heel spurs can grow and become problematic long-term.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of heel pain and heel spurs is made by a through history of the course of the condition and by physical exam. Weight bearing x-rays are useful in determining if a heel spur is present and to rule out rare causes of heel pain such as a stress fracture of the heel bone, the presence of bone tumors or evidence of soft tissue damage caused by certain connective tissue disorders.

Non Surgical Treatment

There are many temporary solutions to resolve the pain associated with irritation to the plantar ligaments. Common recommendations are ice and anti-inflammatory medications or even cortisone injections, however none of these solve the fundamental problem. To permanently resolve heel spurs you need to support and restrict the movement of the plantar ligaments. Flexible shoes will aggravate and often contribute to heel spurs. We recommend a RIGID orthotic that extends from the metatarsal heads to the heel to resolve heel spurs.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery to correct for heel spur syndrome is a common procedure which releases plantar fascia partially from its attachment to the calcaneous (heel bone). This part of the surgery is called a plantar fasciotomy due to the fact the fascia is cut. This is most often done through an open procedure as any heel spur or bursa can be removed at the same time. If the spur is not removed during the surgery, it will probably be just as successful, as the large spur is not the true problem. Some physicians use an endoscopic approach (EPF) where a small camera aids the physician during surgery with typically smaller incisions on each side of your foot.

Prevention

There are heel spur prevention methods available in order to prevent the formation of a heel spur. First, proper footwear is imperative. Old shoes or those that do not fit properly fail to absorb pressure and provide the necessary support. Shoes should provide ample cushioning through the heel and the ball of the foot, while also supporting the arch. Wearing an orthotic shoe insert is one of the best ways to stretch the plantar fascia and prevent conditions such as heel spurs. Stretching the foot and calf is also helpful in preventing damage. Athletes in particular should make sure to stretch prior to any physical activity. Stretching helps prevent heel spurs by making tissue stronger as well as more flexible. In addition, easing into a new or increasingly difficult routine should be done to help avoid strain on the heel and surrounding tissue.

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