Do you always feel like there's a little rock or ball under your heel? Perhaps this issue is constant, or maybe you mostly notice it after you've spent a few hours on your feet. Chances are, you're suffering from something known as a heel spur. Here's a closer look at this condition and what you can do about it.
What is a heel spur?
A heel spur occurs when the heel bone, which is more formally known as the calcaneus, develops an extra bony growth in its surface. The presence of this bony growth also irritates the soft tissues, such as muscles and tendons, in your heel.
What are the symptoms of a heel spur?
The first sign of a heel spur is often that feeling that you're stepping on something. However, as the condition progresses and the tissues around the spur become more swollen, the area becomes more painful. Your heel may appear red and inflamed. You may experience discomfort when you put weight on your heal or when you press on it with your fingers. Often, people with heel spurs also suffer from pain in their arches and Achilles tendons, as the bony growth irritates tendons that extend into these areas.
How are heel spurs diagnosed and treated?
If you think you may have a heel spur, you should visit your doctor or podiatrist. X-rays will be taken to confirm the diagnosis.
Most cases of heel spurs can be managed without surgery. Your podiatrist will likely recommend an orthotic shoe insert that takes pressure off your heel and allows you to walk comfortably. Relieving your foot of this stress will allow the inflammation to go down, which should get rid of most of your symptoms. NSAID pain relievers and cold therapy may also be used to keep swelling at bay. Your podiatrist may also show you exercises to ease any muscle and tendon tightness in your foot.
If your heel spur pain is not reduced substantially with nonsurgical therapy, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. This procedure involves removing the bony growth from the calcaneus and also repairing any tendons that have been damaged by the bony growth. Recovery from heel spur surgery will take several months and involves physical therapy to teach you how to walk and use your foot properly again.
If you think you have a heel spur, contact your podiatrist sooner rather than later. The sooner you begin treating the condition, the lower your chance of needing surgery.