Patients and doctors often confuse the terms heel spur and plantar fasciitis. While these two diagnoses are related, they are not the same. Plantar fasciitis refers to the inflammation of the plantar
fascia--the tissue that forms the arch of the foot. A heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone (calcaneus) and is associated with plantar fasciitis. About 70 percent of patients
with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur that can be seen on an X-ray. However, many patients without symptoms of pain can have a heel spur. The exact relationship between plantar fasciitis and heel
spurs is not entirely understood.
When the Plantar Fascia is allowed to rest during sleep or long periods of inactivity, the fascia tightens and shortens. When you first stand up after resting, the fascia is forced to stretch very
quickly causing micro-tears in the tissue. This is why the first steps in the morning are so exquisitely painful. Heel spurs are more likely to happen if you suffer from over-pronation (walking with
a rolling gait) you stand or walk on rigid surfaces for long periods, you are above ideal weight or during pregnancy, you have stiff muscles in your calves.
Although it may take years to become a problem, once it appears, it may cause considerable suffering. Because of proximity to the tendons, the spur is a source of continuous painful aching. The
sensation has been described as "a toothache in the foot." When you place your weight on the heel, the pain can be sufficient to immobilize you.
Your doctor will review your medical history and examine your foot. X-rays are used to identify the location and size of the heel spur.
Non Surgical Treatment
In many cases treatment is non-surgical and can relieve pain, but may take from three months to a year to fully recover. Performing stretching exercises to help relax the tissues in the heel as well
as rest, icing, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or prescription medications can help ease symptoms. Customized orthotics or shoe inserts to position and cushion your heel can help.
Surgery is used a very small percentage of the time. It is usually considered after trying non-surgical treatments for at least a year. Plantar fascia release surgery is use to relax the plantar
fascia. This surgery is commonly paired with tarsal tunnel release surgery. Surgery is successful for the majority of people.
Prevention of heel spur syndrome may be best by finding a good supportive shoe. Never go barefoot or wear a flat soled shoe. There are many over the counter arch supports that give increased support
for your feet. Usually when there is excessive pronation the Achilles Tendon contracts or becomes shortened over time since it is not being used fully. The shortened Achilles Tendon is called an
equinus deformity. By keeping this tendon stretched it may decrease some of the tension in the foot. Some theories believe the Achilles Tendon and plantar fascia is continuous. Before you get up from
rest, stretch out your Achilles and the plantar fascia. You may attempt to spell the alphabet with your foot and ankle, use a towel against pressure on your foot, or roll a can of soup or sodapop on
the ground. Ice may work well at the times of severe pain. For a chronic pain, or longer lasting pain heat therapy may improve the condition.