Many patients come into our offices with heel spurs and they are nervous because the name of the condition conjures up the fear that surgery will be required; that is not always the case. Treatment options depend on the location of the spur as well as the reason it developed in the first place.
How Bone Spurs Occur
Bone spurs can be the result of many different conditions, from arthritis to tight tendons. They can occur at a joint when the cartilage—the lubricant between your bones and joints—has worn away and there is then bone on bone contact. This causes extra bone to form, resulting in a bone spur.
This condition can also occur where ligaments and tendons attach to bones. When there is an excessive pull on a bone from a ligament or tendon, the bone will start to grow in the direction of the pull and can result in spur formation.
If the spur and pain are located on the bottom of the heel, this is a sign of plantar fasciitis or a strain of the plantar fascial ligament. This ligament stretches from your heel to the ball of the foot helping to support the arch. Occasionally during the diagnosis, x-rays can be taken which will show a heel spur forming. However, with plantar fasciitis, it is often the pull of a tight ligament that causes the pain, not the spur itself. Therefore, the spur does not need to be surgically removed to get rid of the pain. Stretching, arch supports, and anti-inflammatories will be prescribed to resolve the symptoms.
When the cartilage at a joint has worn away, the condition is called osteoarthritis, and the resulting bone on bone contact can cause bone spurs to develop. This friction can result in pain and excessive bone growth around the joint. The body produces new bone (spurs) to restrict motion at the painful site. Over time, the spurs can become prominent and painful, and will not go away without surgery, but that is not the first line of treatment. Anti-inflammatories, injections, orthotics, physical therapy, and other modalities can be successfully utilized before a surgical option is offered.
Similar to plantar fasciitis, it is often the ligament or tendon being strained that causes the pain not the spur itself. The bone spur results from a strong pull of the tendon or ligament on the bone. In response the bone grows in the direction of the pull. By stretching and supporting the tendon or ligament through arch or ankle supports, the pain will resolve. The spur will harmlessly remain, but the pain will go away.
So don’t worry—having a diagnosis of a bone spur does not necessarily mean surgery. There’s no reason to put off that appointment any longer! Let Podiatry Care Specialists, PC in southeastern PA help you take care of and ease your foot and ankle pain. We have offices in Newtown Square, West Chester and Exton. Contact us at (610) 431- 0200 or use the contact us form on our website to make an appointment. Don’t let heel pain hinder you—call today!
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