Does your heel hurt with every step you take? Do you have chronic dull pain in your feet after standing for long periods of time? If you, you may be dealing with a common condition called heel spurs.
Heel spurs involve the formation of a calcium deposit on the underside of your heel bone, sometimes leading to an uncomfortable bump or protrusion. While the growth is typically painless, its presence can irritate nearby tissues, causing inflammation, discomfort and pain. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why these bony overgrowths develop and how a foot specialist like Dr. McDonald can help you treat them.
Causes And Symptoms Of Heel Spurs
As we noted above, heel spurs occur when calcium deposits collect and build up on the underside of your heel. This typically occurs slowly over the course of a number of months, which is why pain is oftentimes described as low and dull in the beginning. These calcium deposits usually develop as a result of the healing process after repeated strain or injury to muscles, ligaments and soft tissues in the heel area. This means that the following groups are at risk for heel spurs:
- Runners, especially those who run on hard surfaces
- People with gait abnormalities that put excessive stress on the heel area
- Individuals who wear shoes that don’t fit properly
- Those who are overweight or obese
Additional risk factors that can increase your likelihood of heel spur development include increasing your physical activity routine too quickly, being on your feet for the majority of your day, being older (as the natural fat pad on your heel can decrease) and being diabetic.
Symptoms of heel spurs include a sharp pain when standing or taking your first few steps that oftentimes transitions to a chronic dull pain with more time on your feet, a pins and needles-like sensation in your heel and redness or swelling in the area.
Diagnosing And Treating Heel Spurs
If you present to a foot specialist with the above symptoms, they’ll conduct a physical exam and see how your foot responds to gentle pressure or movements. They may opt to treat the issue without additional testing, but because these calcium deposits show up well on an imaging exam, a simple X-ray can help the doctor get a more complete picture of what you’re dealing with and the best ways to treat it.
Most doctors will recommend a non-surgical treatment plan as a first line of care. This usually involves rest, physical therapy and targeted stretching exercises, especially before activity, custom orthotics or night splints, heating pads, weight loss, anti-inflammatory medications and changing your shoes to a more supportive pair. Passive options listed above are most effective when paired with active treatments like physical therapy, stretching exercises and weight loss.
The vast majority of people see enough improvement in symptoms through conservative treatment that no additional care is needed, but if symptoms persist or get worse, a minimally invasive procedure may be necessary. During the operation, the surgeon will remove the excessive bone and/or release the plantar fascia that is being compressed by the bone to help control symptoms. Patients will then be asked to follow through with many of the conservative treatments previously listed during their recovery to ensure that the heel spur does not return.
Dealing with pain and discomfort in your heel with every step you take is no way to go through life. Instead, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team and learn how a few simple adjustments to your daily life can get you back to moving without discomfort. For more information, or for help with a different foot or ankle issue, reach out to our office today at (860) 244-8889.