Heel spurs are a common foot ailment that is distinguished by bony growths on the underside of the heel bone. The sudden onset of pain in the back of the foot after exercise is popularly known as heel spur. In fact, it is an overload syndrome, that is, stretching of the plantar fascia, which starts at the lower back of the heel. While heel spurs are usually painless, when they affect the surrounding tissues, such as the plantar fascia, they can cause discomfort and irritation.
What are Heel Spurs?
Plantar fasciitis is a disorder characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that links the heel to the toes. Repetitive tension on the plantar fascia can result in the creation of a bony protrusion known as a heel spur.
The process of bone formation occurs due to the constant pressure of the heel. The tissue that protects the heel and the cells that form the bones begin to store calcium in the problem area, creating a heel spur. This process lasts up to several months, and is accompanied by severe pain, described as a stabbing sensation in the heel.
Although the specific cause of heel spurs is unknown, various factors contribute to their development:
The most common cause of heel spurs is repetitive stress and tension on the plantar fascia, which is usually caused by activities such as running, jumping, or standing on hard surfaces.
Mechanics of the Foot
Foot mechanics that are abnormal, such as flat feet (fallen arches) or high arches, can increase the likelihood of developing heel spurs. These foot structures can affect weight distribution and put strain on the heel bone.
Heel spurs are more common in people over 40, as the body's ability to repair and renew weakens with age.
Excess weight causes additional strain on the foot, resulting in heel spurs and greater strain on the plantar fascia.
Wearing shoes with insufficient arch support or soles that are not well cushioned can lead to the development of heel spurs.
Heel spurs frequently do not create symptoms. The related inflammation and irritation of the surrounding tissues, on the other hand, can cause the following symptoms:
Heel spurs most common symptom is pain, which is often felt on the bottom of the heel. Walking or extended standing may aggravate the discomfort, which can be acute or dull.
The affected area may be sensitive to touch.
Inflammation around the heel spur can cause localized swelling.
A healthcare expert would normally undertake a physical examination and may order imaging tests such as X-rays or ultrasound to establish the presence of a heel spur and rule out other probable disorders to diagnose heel spurs.
The goal of heel spur treatment is to relieve discomfort, reduce inflammation, and address the underlying causes. Among the treatment options available are:
Stopping Activities and Rest
Stopping activities that aggravate the symptoms, such as running or jumping, can provide respite and allow the tissues to heal.
Stretching and strengthening activities can increase calf and foot flexibility, minimizing tension on the plantar fascia. Just be careful during these activities!
Ice applied to the affected area might help relieve pain and inflammation.
Injections of corticosteroids
Corticosteroid injections may be used to decrease inflammation and relieve pain in extreme situations where conservative methods have failed.
Physical treatment may be given in some circumstances to improve foot mechanics, strengthen surrounding muscles, and encourage appropriate alignment.
When all other therapies have failed, surgery is usually considered a last resort. The surgical technique may include the removal of a heel spur or the release of a tight plantar fascia.
While it is not feasible to totally prevent the formation of heel spurs, various precautions can be taken to lower the risk or alleviate symptoms:
Keep a Healthy Weight
Excess weight strains your feet and can lead to the development of heel spurs.
In order to enhance flexibility and reduce tension on the plantar fascia, incorporate regular stretching and strengthening activities for the feet and calf muscles.
Wear Appropriate Footwear
Select footwear with adequate arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption. High heels and unsupportive footwear should be avoided.
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