Heel Spur: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Surgery

Causes of Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are bony growths that form on the underside of the heel bone. They are caused by repeated stress on the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. This stress can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Overuse: Activities such as running, jumping, and walking long distances can put excessive stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Obesity: Obesity puts extra weight on the feet, which can increase the risk of heel spurs.
  • Age: As we age, the plantar fascia becomes less flexible and more prone to injury.
  • Flat feet or high arches: Both flat feet and high arches can put extra stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Ill-fitting shoes: Shoes that are too tight or too loose can also put stress on the plantar fascia.

Symptoms of Heel Spurs

Heel spurs often cause no symptoms. However, some people may experience pain in the heel, especially when first waking up in the morning or after standing for long periods of time. The pain may be described as a sharp stabbing pain or a dull ache. Other symptoms of heel spurs may include:

  • Swelling and redness of the heel
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Difficulty walking or standing

Treatments for Heel Spurs

Most heel spurs can be treated with non-surgical methods, such as:

  • Rest: Avoid activities that aggravate the pain.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the heel for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Take ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Stretching: Stretching the plantar fascia and calf muscles can help to relieve pain and improve flexibility.
  • Orthotics: Custom-made orthotics can help to support the arch of the foot and reduce stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles in the foot and ankle.

If non-surgical treatments are not effective, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the heel spur. Surgery is usually only considered as a last resort.

Prevention of Heel Spurs

There are a number of things you can do to prevent heel spurs, such as:

  • Wear supportive shoes that fit well.
  • Avoid overuse injuries by gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your activities.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stretch the plantar fascia and calf muscles regularly.
  • If you have flat feet or high arches, talk to your doctor about using orthotics.

If you experience any pain in your heel, see a doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. Early treatment can help to prevent the condition from worsening and reduce the need for surgery.