A heel spur is often confused for plantar fasciitis. It is also called as osteophyte. In a heel spur, collections of bony growths occur on the back or underside of the heel. Heel spurs may or may not cause pain. Many patients are seemingly unaware of it until it is diagnosed with the help of a routine x-ray.
The spur forms due to repeat injuries on a particular site of the foot. This creates an additional growth of bone at the trauma site. Heel spurs are often seen in middle-aged men and women but sportspersons and athletes too could suffer from it. Here are some of the ways by which you can treat a heel spur.
Rest is crucial especially if the heel spur has aggravated and is causing pain. The first thing to do is to avoid all forms of activity.
Even mild walking or jogging can intensify the pain. Try not to stand for very long periods of time. Rest will help the swelling to subside and make you feel better.
Apply ice packs immediately to reduce the swelling. This is important as it allows the inflammation to settle down. You can apply a cloth ice pack or freeze a bottle of water in the refrigerator. Roll the bottle of water under your foot and keep it there for 15-20 minutes. Re-freeze another bottle. Continue with this treatment throughout the day after a gap of 1 hour or so.
After the initial 48 hours, you can incorporate mild stretches and exercises to help the foot get better.
These help the muscles around the bone to relax. Try to do them twice everyday, preferably in the morning and the evening.
Calf stretches exert gentle pressure on the calf and heel muscle and help to stimulate them. Place your hands against a wall with one foot directly under your shoulder and one foot placed behind. Make sure the back foot is flat on the ground so that you feel a gentle pressure in your calf and heel muscle. Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds. Repeat the same on the other foot. Do 5-10 repetitions on each foot.
Another exercise that you can perform is toe dips. Stand on a ledge with one foot at the edge and the heel dipping down. Dip the heel down once or twice until you feel a gentle pull. This exercise too is very good for the calves as well as the muscles surrounding the heel.
If the spur is causing pain, redness and inflammation, take some anti-inflammatory medication, which will help the swelling to subside considerably. OTC medications subside but prescription options are also available.
You can make your footwear more accommodating and comfortable by wearing shoe inserts. Shoe inserts come in handy especially when there is an underlying foot problem. Gel heel cups are very good when dealing with a problem like heel spurs. They provide gentle padding directly underneath the affected area of the heel. Be sure to wear them in all your shoes.
Heel wedges are placed inside your shoe towards the back of the foot. They do the job of elevating the heel and therefore removing pressure off the heel.
Start with a small wedge; ascertain your comfort level and then move on to larger wedges.
Night splints are devices that are worn on the foot. They help to align the heel and keep it stretched. This prevents the heel from contracting at night and giving you pain. Choose a good night splint from any reputed orthopaedic store.
Getting an accurate diagnosis is important in the treatment of a heel spur. See a good orthopaedic surgeon who can get to the root of the problem. This is important to rule out any major underlying foot problems. A severe injury or a hairline fracture could also lead to pain and inflammation.
If you are a woman, you may have to refrain from high-heeled shoes for some time. In fact, high-heeled shoes are often the biggest culprits. Pick good quality and well-padded shoes, which do not overpronate or underpronate as you walk.
Shoes that have worn out from their sole can often lead to overpronation. This causes the arch of the foot to flatten and puts tremendous pressure on the heel. Change old footwear and stick to shoes recommended by your doctor.
Another way to exercise your feet as you sit on your desk and work is to wear socks and place a golf ball under your foot. Now roll the entire arch over the golf ball up and down. This may hurt a bit initially but after some time the foot tenderness will dissipate and you will feel much better. Repeat this technique 3-4 times a day.
When anti-inflammatory medicines do not work and you continue to experience severe pain, your doctor might recommend cortisone injections to reduce the pain and the swelling.
These of course must be prescribed only after a thorough review of your condition.
Surgery of a heel spur is sometimes the only solution after everything else fails. In this, the obstructing bone is removed or chipped. Post surgery, the person is asked to do some basic rehab exercises and physiotherapy in order to help the foot to heal.
It is important to take care while you are suffering from a heel spur. Avoid walking barefoot around the house. This can lead to overpronation and cause your injury to aggravate. Stick to padded footwear with shoe inserts until your foot completely heals.
Excess weight and obesity is often one of the biggest causes of heel spurs. Your doctor might ask you to lose weight in order to rectify the problem. Losing weight may take excess pressure off your foot and reduce the occurrence of heel spurs.
These are basic corrective measures which when followed diligently can help the foot to heal.