Heel spurs are more common than you may think. 1 in 10 people have them, and 1 in 20 experience pain as a result of their heel spurs. Given how many people are affected by heel spurs, it’s pretty surprising that we don’t talk about them all that often. Fortunately, the causes for heel spurs are well-known. They’re preventable and highly treatable.
What Is a Heel Spur?
A heel spur is a relatively small calcium deposit that forms on the bottom of the heel bone. They are usually less than a half-inch long, but they can cause a level of aggravation that is far beyond what you might expect. That tiny bony growth is more than capable of irritating the soft tissue and connective tissue of your foot, especially if it’s paired with plantar fasciitis.
What Causes Heel Spurs?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the formation of a heel spur. These are some of the most common.
- Abnormal gait while walking, especially motions that increase stress to the heel bone
- Running on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete
- Inappropriate footwear, shoes that either don’t fit well, don’t provide adequate support, or are too worn out to provide proper support
- Excess weight, which could be linked to regularly carrying large loads or obesity
- Advanced age
Any one of these can put repetitive strain on the sensitive muscles and ligaments that help your foot to function. This strain can cause the membrane that covers the heel bone to tear slightly over and over again, encouraging the heel bone to form the spur.
What Are the Symptoms of a Heel Spur?
As mentioned above, only about half of all people with a heel spur have pain associated with it. For most patients who do experience pain as a result of a heel spur the pain is very sharp when they put weight on it and more of an ache when there’s no direct contact. In addition to pain and discomfort, patients with heel spurs may notice that the area is inflamed or warmer than other areas of the foot due to the irritation.
Treating a Heel Spur
The good news is that most heel spurs can be addressed using non-surgical heel pain treatments. The treatments are fairly easy. You may start with a few stretches under the guidance of your podiatrist, but they may also suggest switching up your shoes or introducing an orthotic device to increase support for your foot. In more severe cases, your podiatrist will use physical therapy prior to considering surgical options.
It’s very uncommon for a heel spur to require surgery. In fact, more than 90% of people with heel spurs never require surgery. However, for that 10% or so surgery is the best option if the patient wants to enjoy normal activities without extreme pain. Now the idea of surgery might be a bit frightening. But minimally invasive heel surgery offers all the benefits with minimal risks.
What Is Minimally Invasive Heel Surgery?
With a minimally invasive heel surgery your podiatrist uses a “keyhole” surgery technique. Thanks to this innovation, recovery time is reduced and risks are minimized. In fact, your feet can usually bear weight immediately after surgery. You can return to regular activities almost right away with some limitations set by your doctor.
Common limitations may include:
- Wearing surgical sandals for the first three weeks
- Limiting how much time you spend on your feet each day
However, as long as you listen to your podiatrist’s instructions, you should be back to enjoying all of your normal activities, pain-free, within a few months.