The most common symptoms and causes of heel spurs
The calcaneus or heel bone is the largest bone in our feet. When we wake up in the morning, it is our heels that we first put on the ground to stand up and balance our body mass over. A heel spur (or calcaneal spur) is generally located at the underside of the heel bone. The development of this bony hook is mainly attributed to a gradual built-up of calcium deposits as a result of faulty foot biomechanics.
The human foot has a unique shock absorber in the arches that take all the applied pressure on it and helps us move comfortably with each step. The arches are held up by a large fibrous ligament that runs along the bottom of the feet from the heel bone to the toes: the plantar fascia.
As we get older the foot structure slowly collapses and our arches drop (this is called over-pronation) placing excessive tension of the plantar fascia. As the plantar fascia ligament pulls away from the calcaneus, the heel bone responds by reaching out and layering bone upon bone.
One of the classic heel spur symptoms is morning heel pain. During sleeping or resting in general our muscles, ligaments and tendons tend to tighten and shorten, as they are not being used. On waking and getting up in the morning we place our heels on the ground, the rested and stiff tissue of in our feet cannot stand to this demand. It results in intense pain till the time they once again get adjusted, usually after walking around for a little while.
That is why morning heel pain is a common symptom seen in people affected by heel spurs. In the morning most of the damage is done to the plantar fascia and micro-tearing of the soft tissue takes place, causing further damage and inflammation.
But as the day proceeds and the tissues warm up, the piercing pain subsides and the inflamed area feels better. Commonly a dull ache will replace the intense morning pain.
It should be noted that not all heel spur sufferers encounter the same symptoms. Rather, there are cases when heel spurs are accidentally discovered while going through X-ray reports for examining other medical conditions. These people have heel spurs but have never experienced any pain or discomfort! It is important to realize that heel spurs do not cause any pain, but are a mere symptom of an underlying condition called Plantar Fasciitis.
Signs and symptoms of heel spurs
- Intense pain in the heel, especially after long hours of rest when body weight is applied to the heels
- Difficulty in standing or walking after periods of activity
- Initially pain confines only to the centre of the heels but after a period of time, it spreads across the entire heel more like a dull ache
- The heel may be tender and feel warm to the touch; these are signs of inflammation of the ligament
Treatment options for heel spurs
There is no real cure as for heel spurs. Heel spur surgery is the only option if one wants to get rid of the spur. However, since the heel spur is not the actual problem and spurs do not cause there is no need for removal of the spur. However, treatment of Plantar Fasciitis (the condition associated with heel spur symptoms) can be achieved, in turn helping to relieve heel pain. Read more about Heel Spur Treatment on this website.