Recent statistics reveal that about 10% of the world’s population has heel spurs. Out of this population, only 5% experience heel pain due to heel spurs. Heel spurs, also identified as calcaneal spurs or osteophytes, is a foot disease characterized by bony calcium deposits on the calcaneus bone.
The latter leads to an outgrowth of bone tissue in the plantar region, impacting pain, inflammation, and tenderness. The bony growth has the potential to extend to a length of half an inch.
Most cases of osteophytes are asymptomatic. For the symptomatic cases, individuals present with symptoms like:
- Tenderness of the achilles tendon and the surrounding muscles.
- Chronic or intermittent heel pain, described as a cutting pain in the morning that dulls as the day progresses.
- Plantar inflammation.
- Pain accompanied by heat in the plantar area.
- Visible bony projection on the heel.
Etiology Of Calcaneal Spurs.
The exact cause of osteophytes is not known. However, it could be attributed to an underlying medical condition. Examples of illnesses that could cause osteophytes are:
- Arthritis, popularly known as Reiter’s disease.
- DISH – diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis.
- Walking gait.
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Ankylosing spondylitis.
Risk Factors Associated With Calcaneus Spurs.
Although the exact cause of calcaneus spurs for most cases is not known, some conditions may facilitate the formation and progression of calcium deposits into the calcaneus bone. These include:
- Excessive calcium intake.
- Heel injury that causes tendon stretch and membrane tears.
- Athletic activities.
- Age, where the older population has a higher propensity to develop osteophytes.
- Female gender.
- Being constantly on your feet.
- Inappropriate footwear.
Osteophytes Vs Plantar Fasciitis.
Although both conditions co-relate, there are a couple of differences between these two medical conditions. While osteophytes are caused by bony growth due to calcium deposits on the heel bone, plantar fasciitis occurs due to the fascia ligament’s inflammation.
Another difference is in the management of both conditions. Plantar fasciitis often resolves without any need for medical intervention. On the other hand, osteophytes require medical intervention by a team of ortho doctors and podiatrists.
However, both foot disorders correlate in that osteophytes cause plantar fasciitis and vice versa.
The heel spur syndrome is a medical term used to describe the early osteophytes phase. During this phase, the bony protrusion is often not diagnosed, and the disease is asymptomatic. The latter makes it difficult to diagnose calcaneal spurs in the early stages.
For the diagnosis and management of calcaneal spurs, we only believe in the best, and Dr. Schottenstein does not fall short in her medical prowess and experience. She is the best podiatrist in Miami and Hollywood.
Typically, a patient presents with symptoms in line with osteophytes’ symptoms upon physical examination by the orthopedic doctor. The latter warrants a lab investigation. Calcaneal spurs diagnosis is based on X-ray imaging technique. Such a method gives detailed information on the bone’s length and the effect on the tissues and ligaments surrounding it.
What Is The Prognosis Of Patients Diagnosed With Osteophytes?
Calcaneus spurs is not a fatal disease, and often podiatrists begin the treatment regimen with the most conservative technique. However, in severe cases, a more aggressive and invasive method is opted.
Management of Osteophytes.
Management incorporates home remedies, medical intervention, and symptomatic therapy.
Since osteophytes are associated with inflammation and heat in the plantar region, doctors recommend applying a cold compression pack to the heel. Cover an ice pack in a cloth and gently press on the affected area for 30 minutes at least four times a day.
Alternatively, one may opt to purchase a cold foot wrap from the local drug store. These are specialized ice packs suited for foot cold compresses.
Foot Massage and Stretches.
Stretching and foot massages are particularly beneficial in osteophytes. Some of the helpful techniques are:
While sitting, gently pull the toes of your feet towards your chest and extend the plantar region’s muscles. Try to hold this pose for at least one minute before gently releasing the foot. Repeat the same exercise on the other foot. Repeat this cycle at least five times each day and increase the number of cycles as you progress.
Calf Stretches Against The Wall.
While placing your arms against a wall and with one foot placed in front of the other, gently lean into the wall in a forward and back movement. Bend your knee while pushing the hips forward to extend the calf muscles effectively. Repeat this exercise at least ten cycles in the morning and the evening.
Alternatively, one could do the calf stretches on the stairway. Other helpful exercises are:
- Ball foot rolls.
- Towel grab foot flexes.
- Squat wall calf stretch.
- Dog walks exercises.
- Calf band exercises.
Although it is greatly undermined, resting one’s feet is an essential aspect of managing osteophytes. Resting allows one to relieve the pain and inflammation resulting from the pressure of standing on your feet for prolonged periods. Additionally, it prevents the worsening of osteophytes.
Use of Essential oils.
Recent studies reveal that some essential oils have potent anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Application of these essential oils reduces both pain and inflammation of the heel. Examples of such oils are:
- Eucalyptus oil.
- Sesame oil.
- Thyme oil.
- Rosemary oil.
Use of Orthopedic Shoes and Orthotic Shoe Inserts.
These are shoes and shoe accessories made by specialists to suit the needs of individuals with foot problems. Shoe accessories like heel pads help enhance flexibility, providing a firm heel support and alleviating the heel. The latter aids in reducing the pressure exerted on the heel, thus minimizing muscle and tendon wear.
Use Of Over The Counter Anti-inflammatory drugs.
Osteophytes cause pain and inflammation to the plantar region. Common OTC medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are effective in alleviating such symptoms. Note that acetaminophen will only relieve the pain but does not help in reducing the inflammation.
For patients at risk of developing ulcers due to chronic use of NSAIDS, doctors recommend using less aggressive NSAIDs like celecoxib and etoricoxib.
Steroid injection is a symptomatic management technique. It involves the injection of a corticosteroid to the top or middle layer of the heel. Steroid injection is the method of choice for patients whose pain is resistant to the use of NSAIDs.
Note that although corticosteroids alleviate pain and inflammation associated with osteophytes, the number of injections is restricted. Increased corticosteroid injection to the heel runs the risk of Achilles tendon rupture.
It involves combining cold compresses with electromagnetic wave therapy in the management of pain associated with osteophytes. Recent studies show that try ultrasound therapy is beneficial in patients with a combined diagnosis of plantar fasciitis and calcaneal spurs.
Surgery is the last option in patients with severe calcaneal spurs. It is an invasive technique in which the doctor surgically removes the ingrown bone. Alternatively, the orthopedic surgeon may decide to alienate the plantar fascia ligament.
Note that surgery does not assure one of complete remission of the calcaneal spur and risks nerve damage. Also, the recovery time as long as it incorporates physiotherapy to help one to walk again. For this reason, we recommend Dr. Schottenstein, the best podiatrist in Miami, Hollywood.
For more information, contact Dr. Schottenstein by visiting our offices or call us to schedule an appointment.