A calcaneal spur (or heel spur) is a small osteophyte (bone spur) located on the calcaneus (heel bone). Calcaneal spurs are typically detected by a radiological examination (X-ray). When a foot bone
is exposed to constant stress, calcium deposits build up on the bottom of the heel bone. Generally, this has no effect on a person's daily life. However, repeated damage can cause these deposits to
pile up on each other,causing a spur-shaped deformity, called a calcaneal (or heel) spur. Obese people, flatfooted people, and women who constantly wear high-heeled shoes are most susceptible to heel
spurs. An inferior calcaneal spur is located on the inferior aspect of the calcaneus and is typically a response to plantar fasciitis over a period, but may also be associated with ankylosing
spondylitis (typically in children). A posterior calcaneal spur develops on the back of the heel at the insertion of the Achilles tendon. An inferior calcaneal spur consists of a calcification of the
calcaneus, which lies superior to the plantar fascia at the insertion of the plantar fascia. A posterior calcaneal spur is often large and palpable through the skin and may need to be removed as part
of the treatment of insertional Achilles tendonitis. These are also generally visible to the naked eye.
These bony protrusions are commonly found in association with a condition called Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia ligament, which spans the arch of the foot,
becomes stressed, torn and inflamed. Misalignment and excessive movement of the plantar fascia ligament is most typically the result of an abnormal walking gait. The ligament is designed to stretch
with the bounce of each step you take, but if it stretches too much, the resulting small tears and inflammation can cause mild to extreme discomfort. At the same time, it is believed that heel spurs
are formed as the body attempts to provide some additional support to the over-stretched ligament. In other words, calcium builds up as a prop to the plantar fascia.
Most people think that a bone "spur" is sharp and produces pain by pressing on tissue, when in fact, these bony growths are usually smooth and flat. Although they rarely cause pain on their own, bone
spurs in the feet can lead to callus formation as tissue builds up to provide added cushion over the area of stress. Over time, wear and tear on joints may cause these spurs to compress neighboring
ligaments, tendons or nerves, thus injuring tissue and causing swelling, pain and tearing.
Most patients who are suffering with heel spurs can see them with an X-ray scan. They are normally hooked and extend into the heel. Some people who have heel spur may not even have noticeable
symptoms, although could still be able to see a spur in an X-ray scan.
Non Surgical Treatment
The most important part of treatment is to rest. Do not undertake activities which hurt the foot or aggravate symptoms as will only cause painful symptoms to persist. Apply an ice pack regularly for
10 minutes at a time every hour initially to reduce pain and inflammation of the surrounding tissues. As symptoms subside frequency of application can reduce to 2 or 3 times per day. Exercises and
stretches to keep the foot and ankle strong and mobile are important as long as pain allows. Stretching the plantar fascia is important, especially if symptoms are worse in the morning. A plantar
fasciitis night splint is excellent for stretching and preventing the plantar fascia tightening up over night. Anti-Inflammatory medicine (e.g. ibuprofen) may be prescribed by a doctor but always
check with a medical professional first as taking some medications such as ibuprofen should not be done if the patient has asthma. Shoe inserts can help to take the pressure off of the spur and
reduce pain. If these treatments do not significantly ease the symptoms then surgery may be an option.
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
Heel Spur symptoms can be prevented from returning by wearing proper shoes and using customized orthotics and insoles to relieve pressure. It is important to perform your exercises to help keep your
foot stretched and relaxed.