Heel spurs (calcaneal spurs) are bony bumps of calcium deposits that form on the heel bone. They are often the result of high prolonged
periods (months and years) of stress being placed on the tendons that attach to the heel bone. The protrusions often occur in
conjunction to, or as a result of Achilles
and plantar fasciitis, as the tendon's involved
with these conditions are attached to the heel bone and repetitively “pull” on the bone. This causes micro trauma and the
body attempts to heal itself by creating more bone, becoming these calcified protrusions known as heel spurs.
Like Achilles tendinopathy & plantar
heel spurs develop from overuse or over training. This training puts extra strain on the muscles and ligaments around the
heel and ankle, which eventually puts excessive strain on the heel bone, causing these spurs.
The most common causes of heel spurs include:
Overuse and over-training
Inadequate footwear for activity, worn out footwear and high heels
Poor levels of strength, mobility and flexibility in the lower limbs
Muscle imbalances and dysfunction
Rigid feet with poor mobility and flexibility that are inadequate to absorb shock
Excessive pronation of the ankle and feet
Leg length difference
Bowed or knocked knees
Abnormal walking and running patterns that place extra stress on the heel bone and ligaments
Considering this, there are also specific groups of people that, if they have one of these conditions, are also more likely to develop heel
spurs than others:
Women who wear high heeled shoes, which can shorten the Achilles tendon over time.
Older people as over time the flexibility of the plantar fascia decreases and the heel's protective fat pad that helps to
cushion and protect the heel bone also thins.
Active runners, joggers and jumpers as more strain will be placed on the heel bone during training, especially if
training on hard surfaces and for many years.
The thought of increased bone creation may sound uncomfortable and painful, however, it's not usually the heel spurs that cause your heel
pain. Instead, the pain you feel is most likely connected to a pre-existing condition like plantar
or Achilles tendinopathy.
Common symptoms associated with the condition include:
Pain in the heel of either one or both feet. The pain can be a sharp, throbbing or a dull ache.
Pain when walking barefoot or struggling to walk barefoot.
You might be able to feel a small, bony bump on the bottom or back of your heel.
Stiffness of the foot and ankle joints.
Pain with activity and daily living.
Numbness, burning and tingling if the nerves are impacted by the spur.
Limited range of motion and mobility in joints.
There's also the chance that you may not experience any symptoms that relate to heel spurs. Some can go unnoticed and will only be
picked up through an X-ray or other tests done for another foot related issue.
We diagnose a heel spur by taking into account your signs and symptoms and the history of the injury, as well as perform a physical
assessment. If we suspect a heel spur, we will refer for X-ray imaging.
Our treatment pathways for heel spurs are dependent on your signs and symptoms. If it is painless then our first course of action is to
simply monitor for any changes.
Commonly, heel spurs are not the source of pain so it is important to identify the real cause of your heel pain and begin, or continue,
treatment for that condition (e.g. plantar
or Achilles tendinopathy).
Often, treatment of the underlying condition will help to resolve your pain and heel spur surgery will not be required.
If it's identified that you're experiencing heel pain due to another condition, then the following
treatments may be required to help control your symptoms:
Astrengthening & stretching program,
especially focusing on the joints and muscles in your feet and ankles.
Adapt and modify your training program.
Gait re-training to fix any biomechanical issues that could be contributing to the
Foot mobilisation technique to mobilise the joints and bones of the foot and ankle to facilitate restoration of
Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive
effective therapy that accelerates and facilitates the healing process. It works by emitting high energy acoustic wave pulses directly
into the injured area. These waves stimulate;
New blood vessel and collagen formation
Increased blood flow
Resolution of calcium build up
Dry needling of surrounding soft tissues structures
to release tension in the muscles, by targeting trigger points.
Surgery is rarely advised, however, if these conservative treatments fail to reduce your heel pain it may be required as a last
The fact of the matter is, heel spurs do not go away without surgery, but if it's not causing you pain, then you have nothing to worry
about and you can continue to live a normal life with your heel spurs.
What happens if I ignore my heel spur?
It is important to address the cause of your heel pain. If you ignore this pain for too long you could end up in a moon boot for an
extended period of time, or surgery may be required. You will also have a prolonged healing period which may prevent you from exercising and
completing your daily activities.
There are a number of factors you can implement that will help to reduce your risk of developing heel spurs:
Wear properly fitting shoes with cushioned soles that help to absorb shock.
Choose appropriate footwear for the activity.
Warm up and stretch before exercise or activities.
Don't push through any heel pain as this can lead to long-term issues. If you're experiencing pain, rest and ice the area and see a
podiatrist if the pain persists.
How to manage your heel pain
If you are injured and experiencing heel pain, the first thing you should do is look at your activity levels and modify them if needed.
Follow these three simple rules to help manage your heel pain
Do I need orthotics?
Not everyone needs orthotics, but they can play an integral role in treating or relieving pain in several foot and lower limb conditions.
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The heat and humidity of an Australian summer makes it a prime time for issues to arise, so our newest podiatrist Lucy has put together
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