There is a common misconception that heel spurs are the cause of foot pain. This is usually not correct. Spurs develop anywhere in our body where a ligament attaches to a bone, if there is enough irritation over time. In the case of heel spurs, the spurs develop where the plantar fascia meets the calcaneus (heel bone). Over time this attachment area is repeatedly irritated and develops microtrauma (little tears and inflammation). The body responds to this constant irritation by trying to make this part of the attachment area stronger. The best way our body knows how to make something strong is to lay down bone. Laying down bone in the plantar fascia forms a calcaneal spur (heel spur).
Causes of heel spurs
The root cause of all heel spurs is irritation to the plantar fascia over time. This may occur from:
- Mechanical stress from long term running or other sports and activities that cause micro-injuries to the foot
- Gravitational load stresses as people put on weight. The feet have to support this weight and can become irritated
- Diseases and hereditary conditions that promote irritation in the feet such as diabetes.
Symptoms of heel spurs
Heel spurs usually occur without any symptoms. However, when they irritate other structures or someone has plantar fasciitis the common symptoms can include:
- Pain and tenderness at the base of the heel, which can get severe enough to cause difficulty in walking.
Treatment of heel spurs
Heel spurs are typically the consequence of something else going on and continued micro-trauma or injury to the plantar fascia. In these situations our chiropractors and physiotherapists will perform a variety of both hands on treatments and exercise treatments to reduce pain and improve the tolerance, durability and function of the foot. Once a heel spur is there, the only true way to remove it is surgery. It is rare that surgery is needed for heel spurs however sometimes it will be needed and our chiropractors and physiotherapists will let you know when we think it is time for a surgical consultation.
Where plantar fasciopathy or plantar fasciitis exist our chiropractors and physiotherapists will give you a loading program and rehabilitation strategy to improve this condition. This is typically a chronic problem and it can take time. At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C), all of our treatments are based on the latest research and evidence so you can be assured the gold-standard in rehabilitation is being used.