What is a heel spur?
The term “heel spur” (also known as calcaneal spur) is a bony outgrowth from the heel bone that feels like a thorn in the foot and can lead to heel pain if left untreated. Experts differentiate dorsal (rear) from plantar (lower) heel spurs: bone spurs usually develop at the transition points between bone and collagenous connective tissue structures, for example where the Achilles tendon attaches to the back of the heel bone or the bottom of the sole of the foot – where the tendon plate of the sole (plantar fascia) connects to the heel bone.
Causes and risk factors for heel spur: How does it develop?
Heel spur is usually caused excessive strain on the foot. This leads to minor injuries and tears at the junction between the heel bone and the foot plate or Achilles tendon. Inflammation occurs, to which the body reacts by, among other things, remodelling the affected tissue. Over time small calcifications and eventually a heel spur can develop from an inflammation. Incorrect foot positioning and obesity can also favour the development of a heel spur.
Symptoms and signs of heel spur
Typical symptom: a plantar (lower) heel spur causes a sensation of “stabbing” pain that is located at the front edge of the sole of the heel. In contrast, dorsal heel spurs can cause pain at the Achilles tendon insertion (achillodynia) or slightly deeper around the rear protective shoe cap.
A heel spur does not necessarily have to be accompanied by pain, even if it can be seen on an X-ray. However, the heel can also hurt without a heel spur being visible on an X-ray.
Observe your symptoms: Does your heel pain increase when you are walking? Would you prefer to walk only on your toes? Does the pain subside when you take the weight off your foot, for example when sitting? Does it hurt when you press on the relevant spot? These symptoms could indicate a heel spur. Consult your doctor.
What helps with heel spur? Treatment with different methods
A range of therapy options is available for treating a heel spur, all of which aim to either relieve pain, remedy the heel spur if possible or prevent new heel problems. How long the treatment takes depends largely on the severity of the heel spur: the patient needs a lot of patience for the therapy, as it can take weeks or even months. Sometimes surgery is necessary.
Some examples of treatment for heel spurs:
- Physiotherapy: Stretching the large tendon plate of the sole of the foot (plantar fascia), the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles, stimulating blood circulation
- Medicinal therapy: anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing
- Orthopaedic insoles and heel cushions: optimised pressure distribution in the foot to stabilise and take the weight off the heel
- Heel spur surgery: You doctor may recommend surgery in case of chronically recurring (relapsing) disease progression.
Which doctors treat heel spur?
The first point of contact for the treatment of heel spurs is your family doctor or an orthopaedist. Introduce yourself there, describe your symptoms and get medical advice regarding your treatment.
Preventive and therapy-supporting: gymnastic exercises for heel pain and heel spurs
Well-toned and stretched muscles take the strain off the tendons. Suitable exercises to alleviate heel pain:
Half squat heel raise
Tip: Heel spur symptoms improve with rest. So take the weight off your affected foot: Put it up whenever you get the chance, take a break from sports and avoid excessive walking or standing.
igli Heel: Orthopaedic insoles by medi
Thanks to the cut-out up to the metatarsophalangeal joint, the igli Heel shoe insole can provide heel spur pain relief. Talk to your doctor. Find out more about igli Heel Light.
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Patient and doctor Tanja Hilbert talks about her heel spur diagnosis