Have you ever been in a cave that had stalactites hanging from the ceiling? Think about the eons of time it took for water droplets to flow down and deposit calcium at the end of each pointed piece. You may not realize it, but something similar is happening when heel spurs form in your feet. It doesn’t involve dripping water and millennia, but it is bone, damaged by stress, trying to rebuild itself.
How the Bone Grows
Heel spur formation is usually associated with a condition called plantar fasciitis. This tissue connects to your calcaneus (heel bone), runs along the bottom of your foot, and fans out to connect to your toe bones. It helps to keep the arch stable and is subject to a lot of pressure from standing, walking, running, and jumping. The tendon can flex, stretching out and tightening up again to absorb the impact of your steps. With repetitive motion, the tissue pulls against the calcaneus and damages the membrane covering the outside of the bone. Your body responds by depositing calcium at the point of damage. Over a period of months, the calcium builds up and forms a sort of horizontal “stalactite” that points forward toward your arch. This protrusion is called a spur.
What Are My Risk Factors for Heel Spurs?
Several factors can influence the formation of these bony protrusions. An abnormal gait can put extra pressure on your heel, and an arch that causes you to overpronate (ankle rolls inward too far) stresses the plantar fascia. Add excess weight or shoes with poor support and the problem is exacerbated. Running or jogging on cement or asphalt, or spending most of the day on your feet at work, can add trauma. Age also plays a part, as your plantar fascia loses flexibility, and the protective pad under your heels begins to disintegrate. Top this all off with spurts of activity when you aren’t used to it (making a dash for the bus, or weekend warrior football games), and you could end up with these bony growths.
Where’s the Pain?
The spur itself is not usually painful, and you may not even know you have one. The discomfort comes when the tissues around it become inflamed or swollen. If the spur pokes into this tender tissue, you may feel a sharp, stabbing pain. The same sensation happens when your plantar fascia tightens up during the night in bed, and then is stretched with your first steps in the morning.
Spur Yourself to Action
When you have chronic heel pain, we have answers. In years past, medical professionals believed heel spurs were the cause of the pain and often removed them surgically. Today, we try non-invasive treatments whenever possible to avoid the risks and recovery times associated with surgical procedures. The vast majority of cases get better with conservative therapy.
We may recommend a pain reliever to get you over the hump of pain at first. Then we can show you stretches to loosen tight tendons and muscles and keep them from pulling against the bone. We may advise you on choosing a different type of shoe, or use taping, strapping, or a crepe bandage to support the foot structure and give it a rest from trauma. We can also prescribe shoe inserts or custom orthotics, which cushion the painful areas and correct imbalances in your stride that stress certain areas of your feet. Physical therapy exercises and stretches can improve the condition of your feet, so they are able to withstand the pressure placed on them. Some patients respond well to corticosteroid injected right in the painful area.
If you are ready to kick your heel pain, come to the experts. Our doctors are ready with the latest technology, used in a caring atmosphere, to get rid of your pain and get you back in action again. Call Country Foot Care in New York at (516) 741-FEET (3338) and set up an appointment today.