What are Heel Spurs?
It shouldn’t hurt to get to your feet in the morning or walk throughout your day, but if your steps result in stabbing or aching pain in one or both heels, you may be suffering from heel bone spurs. Also known as calcaneal spurs or osteophytes, heel spurs are pointed, hooked or shelf-shaped calcium build-ups on the heel bone (calcaneus). While the spurs themselves do not sense pain, their tendency to prod the soft, fatty tissues of the heel can result in severe discomfort with every step you take. The good news is, there are easy and affordable treatments available that can help relieve your heel spur pain.
Heel spurs result in a jabbing or aching sensation on or under the heel bone. The pain is often worst when you first arise in the morning and get to your feet. You may also experience pain when standing up after prolonged periods of sitting, such as work sessions at a desk or car rides. The discomfort may lessen after you spend several minutes walking, only to return later. Heel spurs can cause intermittent or chronic pain.
How do they occur?
These bony protrusions are commonly found in association with a condition called Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia ligament, which spans the arch of the foot, becomes stressed, torn and inflamed. Misalignment and excessive movement of the plantar fascia ligament is most typically the result of an abnormal walking gait. The ligament is designed to stretch with the bounce of each step you take, but if it stretches too much, the resulting small tears and inflammation can cause mild to extreme discomfort. At the same time, it is believed that heel spurs are formed as the body attempts to provide some additional support to the over-stretched ligament. In other words, calcium builds up as a prop to the plantar fascia.
Why do they cause pain?
If your body has created calcium build-ups in an effort to support your plantar fascia ligament, each time you step down with your foot, the heel spur is being driven into the soft, fatty tissue which lines the bottom of your heel. Heel bone spur sufferers experience stabbing sensations because the hard protrusion is literally being jabbed into the heel pad. If left untreated, Plantar Fasciitis and heel spurs can erode the fatty pad of the heel and cause permanent damage to the foot. Fortunately, most cases can be resolved without medications or surgeries.
In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend surgery for the removal of heel bone spurs. Fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. Most cases can be resolved with a combination of icing, rest, foot stretches and supporting the foot with an orthotic shoe insert specifically designed for this condition. We recommend that you continue on to our article on Heel Spur Treatment to discover the best, speediest and most affordable methods of resolving this ailment without invasive medical procedures.
Orthotic devices or shoe inserts are used to take pressure off plantar spurs (donut-shaped insert), and heel lifts can reduce stress on the Achilles tendon to relieve painful spurs at the back of the heel. Similarly, sports running shoes with soft, cushioned soles can be helpful in reducing irritation of inflamed tissues from heel spurs. Infrequently, surgery is performed on chronically inflamed spurs.