Bothered by the bony bump on the back of your heel, and looking for heel spur relief? While these growths, formed of calcium deposits, aren't a medical concern, they often become troublesome. Changing the profile of your foot, they can rub against your shoes, becoming painful and inflamed. At that point, many patients are left seeking relief from the discomfort. In some cases, that means getting your heel spurs removed surgically. Other times, less invasive interventions will be sufficient. Ready to explore your options? Let's dive in, together!

Find Heel Spur Relief in Powder Springs, GA

Retrocalcaneal heel spurs are bony growths that grow in your foot, below the back of your heel. While spur size differs, some patients experience as much as half an inch of extra bone growth. (Though much of that will only be visible on x-rays, which we have in our office in the Lost Mountain neighborhood.) But why does that extra bone grow? And what heel spur symptoms can you expect if it does?  This post will review the causes and symptoms of heel spurs, plus how you can find pain relief from our podiatrist in Powder Springs, GA.  

Heel Spurs and Heel Pain  

When you develop a retrocalcaneal heel spur, it forms at the meeting point between your heel bone and plantar fascia. Now, many people with plantar fasciitis also develop heel spurs. And that’s because when you put too much pressure on your feet and tendons, that can trigger both spur growth and inflammation in your plantar fascia. Now, there's often a link between plantar fasciitis and heel spur develpment. But that doesn’t mean that the heel pain of plantar fasciitis is a symptom of your heel spur. Because, in reality, these are two separate conditions.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a condition describing painful inflammation in your plantar fascia. (That’s the band of connective tissue running along the bottom of your foot, from your heel to its midpoint.) You develop this condition when you strain, overstretch or tear the ligament, leaving you with heel pain. Typically, with this condition, your heel pain is worst first thing in the morning, right when you get out of bed. Initially, your pain will get better as you start to move. But, without treatment, plantar fasciitis pain can become a chronic problem.

In contrast, your body forms heel spurs as a response to pressure. Now, that pressure could come from overstretched plantar fascia. Or, it could come from an injury, or even a major change in the way you walk. However, unlike people with plantar fasciitis, not everyone with heel spurs experiences pain or other symptoms. In reality, you're only likely to experience pain or other heel spur symptoms when a large bony growth begins to rub against your shoes.

Why Do Heel Spurs Form? Preventing Heel Spur Symptomsperson holding foot with heel pain

Your body may form heel spurs in response to pressure. And, as we mentioned, that pressure could come from a variety of sources. For some patients, the pressure may come from your shoes, the way your body is constructed, or even from changing the way you walk, whether due to injury or because you want to try improving your running technique. In some cases, a bone spur forms after an injury, like a tear in the cartilage that covers your heel bone (called articular cartilage.) Or it could form after you damage muscles or tendons in your feet.

Because there are many reasons why spurs may form, there are also many ways to prevent their growth. First, always run or play sports on soft surfaces like grass or turf instead of concrete. You should also choose roomy, supportive shoes that fit your foot shape. And you should consider investing in custom orthotics, which support your unique foot shape and can take pressure off your heel bone.  Finally, ask for help as soon as you experience heel pain, because this symptom suggests there’s too much pressure on your heel bone and plantar fascia.

Diagnosing and Treating Heel Spurs in Powder Springs, GA

When you come in for a physical exam, we'll usually be able to detect a visible bump on your heel. But tha won't tell us the full extent of the issue. So, in the office, we can diagnose the full size of your extra bone growth with x-ray imaging. Then, we can deermine the appropriate couse of treatment.

If your spur is relatively small, we can target the symptoms rather than the actual bump on your heel. In order to reduce any pain you're experiencing, we’ll try to resolve any inflammation, and take pressure off your feet and heels. This should reduce your pain, and also keep your spur from growing larger. But how we resolve the pressure and inflammation will depend on your unique condition. For some patients, something as simple as adding padding to your shoes, or covering your heels, could resolve all your symptoms. In other cases, we may need to address the root cause of your spur fomation. And, to do that, the treatment plan may include custom orthotics, regular rest and icing your bony bump, or even taking anti-inflammatory medications to speed up your healing. In rare cases, we may remove your heel spurs with surgery.  (Luckily, we offer minimally invasive surgery, which can dramatically reduce your post-operative recovery period.) Even so, we will only recommend surgical removal of heel spurs if your symptoms are so painful that it’s hard to wear shoes or maintain your mobility.

As with so many foot conditions, it’s easier to resolve your heel spur symptoms if you come in at the first sign of trouble. So if you’ve noticed a small bump forming at the back of your heel, schedule an immediate appointment with Dr. Alvin Cowans. He can diagnose the cause of your spurs and treat any existing symptoms. In many cases, this will prevent pain from interfering with your daily activities, and keep a small spur from growing large and cumbersome.

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