A heel spur is a bony projection on the sole (plantar) region of the heel bone (also known as the calcaneous). This condition may accompany or result from severe cases of inflammation to the
structure called plantar fascia. This associated plantar fascia is a fibrous band of connective tissue on the sole of the foot, extending from the heel to the toes.
Each time we take a step forward, all of our body weight first rests on the heel of one foot. As our weight moves forward, the entire foot begins to bear the body's weight, and the foot flattens and
this places a great deal of pressure and strain on the plantar fascia. There is very little ?give? to the plantar fascia, so as it stretches only slightly, it pulls on its attachment to the heel. If
the foot is properly aligned this pull causes no problems. However, if the foot is ?pronated?(the foot rolls outward at the ankle, causing a break down of the inner side of the shoe), the arch falls
excessively, and this causes an abnormal stretching of the relatively inflexible plantar fascia, which in turn pulls abnormally hard on the heel. The same pathology occurs with ?supination? (the
rolling inward of the foot, causing a break down of the outer side of the shoe). Supinated feet are relatively inflexible; usually have a high arch, and a short or tight plantar fascia. Thus as
weight is transferred from the heel to the remainder of the foot, the tight plantar fascia hardly stretches at all, and pulls with great force on its attachment to the heel. In both cases, the
abnormal stress placed on the attachment of the plantar fascia to the heel usually causes pain, inflammation, and possibly swelling. If this process continues, the plantar fascia partially tears away
from the heel. The body will fill in this torn area with calcium; eventually it becomes bone, and a heel spur results.
With heel spurs, people often talk about a dull ache which is felt most of the time with episodes of a sharp pain in the center of the heel or on the inside margin of the heel. Often the pain is
worse on first rising in the morning and after rest and is aggravated by prolonged weight bearing and thin-soled shoes.
A Heel Spur diagnosis is made when an X-ray shows a hook of bone protruding from the bottom of the foot at the point where the plantar fascia is attached to the heel bone. The plantar fascia is the
thick, connective tissue that runs from the calcaneus (heel bone) to the ball of the foot. This strong and tight tissue helps maintain the arch of the foot. It is also one of the major transmitters
of weight across the foot as you walk or run. In other words, tremendous stress is placed on the plantar fascia.
Non Surgical Treatment
In many cases treatment is non-surgical and can relieve pain, but may take from three months to a year to fully recover. Performing stretching exercises to help relax the tissues in the heel as well
as rest, icing, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or prescription medications can help ease symptoms. Customized orthotics or shoe inserts to position and cushion your heel can help.
Usually, heel spurs are curable with conservative treatment. If not, heel spurs are curable with surgery, although there is the possibility of them growing back. About 10% of those who continue to
see a physician for plantar fascitis have it for more than a year. If there is limited success after approximately one year of conservative treatment, patients are often advised to have surgery.