Bone spurs (retrocalcaneal spur, or exostosis) can develop not only on the back of the heel, but also on the toes, mainly around the fifth (small) toe. Most often, they occur next to the toenail on the outside of the toe; on the inside of the toe near the tip, where the fifth toe presses against the fourth toe; and on the inside of the base of the toe. Bone spurs can also occur on the sides of the toes. This is usually due to wearing shoes that are too tight in the toe box, which causes the toes to press against each other. Bone spurs may also develop in the arch area of the top of the foot; this area becomes painful when you tie your shoelaces tightly or exert other pressure on that part of the foot. Formation of spurs in this area is often associated with arthritis.
One frequent cause of heel spurs is an abnormal motion and mal-alignment of the foot called pronation. For the foot to function properly, a certain degree of pronation is required. This motion is defined as an inward action of the foot, with dropping of the inside arch as one plants the heel and advances the weight distribution to the toes during walking. When foot pronation becomes extreme from the foot turning in and dropping beyond the normal limit, a condition known as excessive pronation creates a mechanical problem in the foot. In some cases the sole or bottom of the foot flattens and becomes unstable because of this excess pronation, especially during critical times of walking and athletic activities. The portion of the plantar fascia attached into the heel bone or calcaneous begins to stretch and pull away from the heel bone.
With heel spurs, people often talk about a dull ache which is felt most of the time with episodes of a sharp pain in the center of the heel or on the inside margin of the heel. Often the pain is worse on first rising in the morning and after rest and is aggravated by prolonged weight bearing and thin-soled shoes.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by your physiotherapist or sports doctor based on your symptoms, history and clinical examination. After confirming your heel spur or plantar fasciitis they will investigate WHY you are likely to be predisposed to heel spurs and develop a treatment plan to decrease your chance of future bouts. X-rays will show calcification or bone within the plantar fascia or at its insertion into the calcaneus. This is known as a calcaneal or heel spur. Ultrasound scans and MRI are used to identify any plantar fasciitis tears, inflammation or calcification. Pathology tests may identify spondyloarthritis, which can cause symptoms similar to plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
In case of heel spurs rest is most important. Active sports, running, long walks etc should be avoided to start with. If you?re in a job that requires a lot of standing, take a few days off work. Rest (or reduced activity) is essential to allow the inflammation from becoming aggrevated. Furthermore, you can use ice packs (placed on the heel for 5-10 minutes) to ?cool down? the inflamed area. You may take anti-inflammatory medication or apply a topical inflammatory (i.e. a cream) to help reduce inflammation. In addition, there are some simple exercises that should be done daily to help relieve heel spur pain.
Approximately 2% of people with painful heel spurs need surgery, meaning that 98 out of 100 people do well with the non-surgical treatments previously described. However, these treatments can sometimes be rather long and drawn out, and may become considerably expensive. Surgery should be considered when conservative treatment is unable to control and prevent the pain. If the pain goes away for a while, and continues to come back off and on, despite conservative treatments, surgery should be considered. If the pain really never goes away, but reaches a plateau, beyond which it does not improve despite conservative treatments, surgery should be considered. If the pain requires three or more injections of "cortisone" into the heel within a twelve month period, surgery should be considered.
You can help prevent heel spur symptoms from returning by wearing the proper shoes. Customized orthotics and insoles can help relieve pressure. It is important to perform your exercises to help keep your foot stretched and relaxed.