How to treat a heel spur
There you are..training for your annual event “Marbella4dayswalking“, when all of a sudden you can not walk anymore because it feels as if you have kicked in a nail. Every morning you crawl out of your bed in agony…you have a heel spur.
A heel spur is an inflammation of the large tendon that runs under the sole of the foot. As a result of overloading, the attachment of this tendon to the heel becomes inflamed and the characteristic pain develops at the bottom of the heel. How do heel spur complaints arise, how do you prevent them and how do you get rid of them?
What is a heel spur?
A heel spur is an inflammation of the sole of the foot (plantar fascia) where it is attached to the bone of the heel (calcaneus). This tendon plate connects the heel bone with the forefoot. Due to the prolonged irritation and inflammation, calcifications occur in the attachment of the sole of the foot to the heel bone.
A heel spur is not infection with, for example, a bacteria or virus, but is usually caused by overloading. It is the most common cause of heel pain and is especially common in people over the age of forty.
The heel spur is created by overloading the sole of the foot. The tendon attachment is then under tension, causing irritation and inflammation.
Overloading the sole of the foot often occurs with athletes who put a lot of strain on the feet, such as when running or jumping on hard surfaces. A different position of the feet or a wrong walking pattern also increases the risk of heel spurs.
Pain on the underside of the heel is characteristic of heel spur complaints. Usually, the symptoms develop gradually due to chronic overload. Occasionally there is an acute injury, for example when you hit your foot hard on a surface that does not bounce.
The pain often arises after walking or running and initially pulls away to rest. If the symptoms last longer, the pain may be present continuously. Especially early in the morning or after a long sitting, the pain can be more severe. Usually, the pain diminishes when you move again for a while.
Has the pain not diminished after two to four weeks? Then contact your doctor.
How is the diagnosis made?
Your doctor or physiotherapist asks about your complaints: how they originated, where the pain is located exactly and when it is bothering you. He or she examines your feet and your walking pattern. Often the heel is painful when you press on the site of the tendon attachment. Bending your toes and walking on your toes can also make the pain worse.
Occasionally your doctor advises having an X-ray of your foot taken. With heel spurs, there is sometimes a bone protrusion on the underside of the heel bone.
The main cause of heel spur complaints is overloading the sole of the foot. You use this tendon while walking, where the attachment absorbs the shock that occurs when your foot lands on the ground. If the shock is too great, the tendon attachment can be overloaded. This happens especially when your foot lands on a hard surface with insufficient cushioning. A lot of running or jumping, therefore, increases the risk of heel spurs. The risk of pain is also increased by wearing the wrong and/or worn-out shoes that do not absorb the shock of falling down properly.
The following factors increase the burden on the foot tendon attachment and thereby increase the risk of heel spur:
- regularly standing for long periods
- deviations of the foot, for example, flat feet
- a wrong walking pattern
- being overweight
Normally your foot can absorb the shock of coming down well. If you take too little rest between stressful activities, the tendon attachment cannot recover sufficiently. The healing capacity of the foot decreases with age. Heel-rail complaints therefore mainly occur in people over forty years of age.
Do you have heel spur complaints? Take the pain seriously and do not continue for too long.
The treatment of heel spur complaints consists of a combination of different methods:
- reducing the load on the sole of the foot
- stretching and strengthening the foot and calf muscles
- pain relief if needed
- It is important, first of all, to reduce the load on the foot. Keep moving, but stop if you get hurt. Train less heavy and build up the training calmly, based on the pain. Make sure you have good shoes that absorb the shocks, for instance, Xsensible Stretchwalker, the special technology sole shoe, that helps you to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the feet and calves.
- Are you overweight? Try to lose weight so that your feet are less stressed.
- Some people benefit from short-term cooling of the painful area.
- You can also use painkillers to reduce the pain.
- Sometimes soles can help to absorb the shock and reduce pressure on the sore. However, soles do not accelerate the recovery of heel spurs. They can, however, help to correct position deviations of the foot or a wrong walking pattern.
- In exceptional cases, your doctor may recommend an operation in which an orthopaedic surgeon detaches the tendon attachment from the heel bone. However, the risk of complications, including the development of a flat foot, is high, so that doctors are very reluctant with this operation.