What Are Heel Spurs?
Heel spurs are bony growths on the heel that are sometimes due to plantar fasciitis. They occur when the plantar fascia—a long piece of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot—heals incorrectly after becoming injured or inflamed. The plantar fascia is mostly made of collagen fiber, which it normally uses to repair itself. However, when healing is prolonged or impaired, the body instead uses bone tissue to repair it. Heel spurs are the result of this impaired healing process.
Most of the time, heel spurs have no symptoms. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 10 percent of people have heel spurs, but not all of them have heel pain.
If heel spurs do cause heel pain, the pain is usually most noticeable in the morning or after rest and improves after activity. There may be a tender, bony bump in the heel that can be felt if the area is pressed or massaged. The pain will progress over time as the plantar fasciitis gets worse.
Heel spurs are more likely to happen if an individual:
- Has arthritis
- Has diabetes
- Has flat feet, high arches or weak arches
- Is active or increases activity
- Is middle-aged or older
- Is overweight or obese
- Is pregnant
A doctor will perform a physical examination, looking for areas of tenderness, high arches, pain when pressing on the plantar fascia and limited ankle mobility. Since heel spurs are made of bone, they can be seen on X-rays, so X-rays are sometimes used to confirm a diagnosis.
Most heel spurs can be treated without surgery. They are normally treated by caring for plantar fasciitis. Nonsurgical treatments include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen
- Physical therapy
- Shoe inserts
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