Have you ever seen an X-ray image of a heel spur? Most people are taken a bit by surprise! You can see a clear image of a spike-like protrusion emanating from the front (yes, the front) of the heel bone, at the bottom. It may even look like your heel bone gained a beak or a hook, and the biggest ones can even reach half in inch in length.
So how exactly does a spike-like bone spur get there? The short answer is that it’s one of the ways your body deals with trauma. Heel spurs don’t just appear out of the blue; they form as a response to repetitive stress in the surrounding supporting structures.
Most commonly, the principle contributing factor is plantar fasciitis. Your plantar fascia, which runs along the bottom of your foot and connects with the front of the heel bone, is designed to provide support and cushioning for your arch, but it can stretch and tear under too much weight and pressure. There could be a number of underlying factors at play here, from gait abnormalities or structural defects such as flat feet, to a lifestyle with lots of running or jogging on hard surfaces, or even just wearing poorly fitting or blown-out shoes long after their best-by date.
In order to pick up the slack for these overtaxed and inflamed tissues, deposits of calcium begin to build up on the surface of the heel bone. This is what the spur is made of.
One thing to note is that it usually isn’t the spur itself causing your heel pain. As a matter of fact, many people with even very large heel spurs may feel no pain or discomfort at all from the bony protrusion. It’s really the plantar fasciitis, or soft tissue inflammation, that produces the pain in most cases.
Now that you know how spurs form, you can consider how you might prevent them in the future. The good news is that conservative care for plantar fasciitis is usually sufficient to resolve your pain. Even if the spur remains, pain typically resolves when the soft tissues heal. However, sometimes heel spurs can press painfully on surrounding tissues and need to be removed.
Regardless of the fundamental cause of your heel pain, Dr. Corey Fox and the team at Massapequa Podiatry Associates can help you address it and fix it. To make an appointment, please give us a call today at 516-541-9000.