Bone spurs on your heels, also known as retrocalcaneal heel spurs, are growths that form inside your foot, beneath the back of the heel. But what causes that growth? Do you need to worry about a heel spur? And how can you treat this bony bump on your heel? Keep reading to find out!  

What Makes You Develop a Heel Spur?

A heel spur is a hard bump made out of calcium deposits. When those deposits build up on your heel bone, you develop a heel spur.  But why does calcium start building up on your bone? Well, like a corn or callus, a bone spur is a response to pressure. So, when a heel spur forms, that’s your body’s way of protecting your heel bone from tension caused by tugging from the nearby plantar fascia or Achilles tendon.

Now, a heel spur doesn’t form overnight. Instead, it develops slowly, over weeks or months, because the pressure on your heel bone isn’t being relieved.  Often that pressure comes when you have conditions such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis. But other causes of heel spur formation include:

  • Trauma to your heel
  • Your foot structure, whether the feet are flat or high-arched
  • High intensity athletic activities, particularly those with lots of jumping and running
  • Carrying extra weight
  • Wearing un-supportive shoes
  • Aging
  • Arthritis

Heel Spur Symptoms A foot with a heel spur

While this may surprise you, most heel spurs are actually asymptomatic. That means, they don’t cause you pain simply by forming. Instead, you’re likely to feel pain in your heels from the condition causing your spur to develop—either the plantar fasciitis or the Achilles tendonitis.

Over time, however, that spur may directly cause your pain. It can rub against your shoes, leading to pain and inflammation. And, as you age, the natural padding on your feet may wear down, leaving you walking directly on the bony bump. At that point, you could feel stabbing pain, especially with exercise or extended movement.

Now, it’s possible to stop the growth of your heel spur. And it’s even possible to remove this bony growth. However, unless we also determine the cause of the heel spur formation—and relieve that condition as well—you’re unlikely to find relief from symptoms such as heel pain and inflammation. As such, diagnosing and treating your bone spur will likely involve a multi-step approach.  

Diagnosing Bone Spurs in Powder Springs, GA

In our podiatry practice in the Lost Mountain neighborhood of Powder Springs, we use a diagnostic x-ray to detect extra bone growth and to determine the severity of your condition. Then, we’ll conduct a thorough exam to determine what caused your bone spur to form in the first place. At that point, we can develop a customized treatment plan to minimize your pain, prevent future spur growth, and remove pressure from the area, so that you find lasting relief.

Non-Surgical Heel Spur Treatment

To begin with, any treatment plan we suggest will make sure the actual bony bump isn’t causing you pain. To that end, we’ll help keep you from walking directly on the spur, since that could cause the bony bump to wear down and leave you in pain. For many patients, something as simple as placing a gel heel pad beneath your heel bone can relieve your bone spur pain. And it works by protecting the bony bump from the impact of your movement.

At other times, however, padding your bone spur won’t relieve your pain. Remember, if your heel spur formed because you have plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis, or if your high-arched or flat feet caused spur formation, we’ll need to treat those problems as well. Otherwise, you’ll keep feeling pain, no matter how many pads you put in your shoes.  

Custom Orthotics: The All-in-One Solution

When underlying conditions cause spur formation, a custom orthotic can resolve your heel spur pain—and keep it from coming back. Remember, custom orthotics are specialized insoles that actually function as medical devices. And, because we mold them to the exact shape of your feet, they provide support exactly where you need it most.

In turn, we can reduce the pressure on your ligaments, tendons and heel bone. As a result, we can reduce your pain. And we can also help prevent further spur growth, since we’ll have removed the pressure on the area.

Even better? When we create a custom orthotic for patients with heel spurs, we can build in extra padding for the heel area. This will keep pressure off your spur, preventing pain while correcting the underlying cause of the extra bone growth.

Surgical Treatments for Heel Spurs

When we use custom orthotics to treat your bone spur, we can reduce your pain and prevent further growth. But the actual spur you have won’t go away. To do that, we’d have to schedule you for surgery.

Now, most patients don’t need or want to have their bone spurs surgically removed. And that’s because we can almost always provide relief with less invasive treatment options. But if you have a large and painful heel spur, surgery may be necessary. In such cases, we could remove the heel spur, smoothing out the underlying bone to complete the process. Following the procedure, you’ll need to keep pressure off your foot by wearing a surgical shoe, but your recovery should be complete in a few weeks. After that, your heel won’t have a bony bump any more. But if you want to keep the growth from returning, you’ll still have to wear custom orthotics. Otherwise, instability in your foot could put pressure on the heel bone once again, causing a new spur to form.

Heel Spur Relief is Available: Sooner Than You Think!

If you’ve already noticed a small, bony bump forming on the back of your heel, now is the time to  schedule an appointment with Dr. Alvin Cowans. The sooner you seek heel spur treatment, the easier it will be for you to find relief without surgery!