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What Are Heel Spurs and What Can You Do About Them?

If you’re among the estimated 8 out of 10 Americans who suffer from foot pain, you know that it not only prevents you from being active, but also wreaks havoc to your quality of life.

One of the most common foot conditions is heel pain. For most people, the source of heel pain is an issue with inflammation of the long band of tissue that goes from the heel to the toes, called the plantar fascia. The condition, called plantar fasciitis, often causes stabbing pain that can begin from the moment you take your first steps in the morning. 

Many people who suffer from plantar fasciitis also have heel spurs, but what’s the connection? Does plantar fasciitis cause heel spurs or vice versa?

Dr. Jarna Rathod -Bhatt and Dr. Rahul Bhatt, our highly skilled podiatrists at Apple Podiatry Group unpack heel spurs and share what you can do about them.

What are heel spurs?

A heel spur is a bone anomaly that grows where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone. Remarkably, for some patients this excess bone can extend as much as a half inch. Heel spurs aren’t always accompanied by pain, so some people accidentally find out they have them when they’re X-rayed for other conditions.

The connection between heel spurs and plantar fasciitis isn’t about one causing the other, but instead they share common risk factors, such as having high arches, being overweight, or applying excessive stress on the foot muscles and ligaments.  

A heel spur typically develops over the course of several months and is caused not only by excessive strain and stress, but also by over-stretching of the plantar fascia. As a result, tiny tears on the membrane covering the heel can develop. Although anyone can develop heel spurs, it’s a common condition for athletes who perform a lot of jumping or running.

A little R & R

Several treatment options for heel spurs are often combined to reduce pressure and strain on your feet, decrease inflammation, and promote healing. When you come in to see us, we evaluate the likely cause of your heel spurs and develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

Many patients with heel spurs respond very well to just taking it easy for a while. Resting and applying ice can do wonders to address the swelling and pain associated with heel spurs. 

Physical therapy and stretching exercises

Another way to treat heel spurs is to stretch and strengthen your arches through physical therapy or exercise. The ultimate goal is to make your arch muscles more resilient so that they hold up better to the pressure and stress of walking, running, or standing on your feet for long periods of time. 

Custom orthotics and supportive footwear

Providing adequate support for your feet is also a great way to tackle heel spurs. Replace worn everyday shoes and athletic shoes with footwear that fit well, provides support, and takes pressure off your heel. 

Your plantar fascia is essentially your body’s shock absorber.  When you run, jog, or walk, it bears the entire pressure of your weight and supports your foot’s arch. Custom-made prescription shoe inserts (custom orthotics) can also alleviate heel spur discomfort as well as protect your arches and help with any spinal alignment issues that may be contributing to how you walk or run.   

Medications to reduce inflammation

Another great way to address heel spurs, especially if the condition is causing painful inflammation, is to address the swelling, which may be the actual source of the pain. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can do the trick for many patients. But if these don’t work, we may give you a cortisone injection.

For a vast majority of patients with heel spurs – more than 90% of them – these nonsurgical, conservative treatments work well. However, if a significant amount of time goes by without relief, we may recommend surgery to remove the heel spur or to release the tension on the plantar fascia.  

If you’re experiencing heel pain and think you may have a heel spur, make an appointment for an evaluation with one of our podiatrists. Book a consultation right now by clicking the ”request appointment” button. Or you can call one of our Apple Podiatry Group offices in Arlington or Irving, Texas, to schedule your appointment.

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