Treating Heel Pain: Heel Spurs
Plantar fasciitis is sometimes called, “heel spur syndrome,” as heel spurs often accompany it. But the two are not to be confused; heel spurs and plantar fasciitis often come hand-in-hand, but they are not the same injury. While plantar fasciits is inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue, a heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone, which will show up on an X-ray. Those with a history of heel pain are often at a higher risk for heel spurs. Since the heel spur hooks that form on the bone are often at the base of the plantar fascia, it is clear why the two conditions are often related.
Your podiatrist will recommend a similar treatment plan for heel spurs as for plantar fasciiits. First, avoiding activities that aggravate your heel pain should be avoided. Resting from stressful exercise and training does not mean inactivity – in fact, engaging in non-stressful activity such as swimming can help speed the recovery process. The main goal of rest will be to reduce the inflammation in your heel, thus lessening the pain you feel. Applying heat and ice packs as well as taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen) will also aid in reducing the swelling and therefore the pain. Your podiatrist will recommend strengthening exercises and stretches that will work to relax the muscles surrounding the calcaneus, or heel bone. Patients often report quick results when they diligently stick with these exercises.
It may help to reexamine your shoes, or to use shoe inserts, heel pads, or over the counter or custom orthotics Be sure that you consider your every-day shoe wear along with your athletic shoe wear, as both standing for long periods of time as well as exercise can stress your heel.
Finally, night splints will help you stretch your heel when you sleep, preventing morning pain when you take your first few steps out of bed. . Dr. Murray and Dr. Chang sell a variety of night splints that you can find here.
In extreme cases, and only after a year of trying other treatment options, your podiatrist may suggest more invasive treatment therapies. These include the new extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), corticosteroid injections and surgery.
Pain from heel spurs often reoccurs. However, staying dedicated to your stretching and strengthening exercises as well as wearing proper and supportive footwear is a good step to preventing the reoccurrence of heel spur pain.