Bone Spur in the Heel

By , Category : Pain

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Bone Spur in the HeelA bone spur in your heel can be a strange and painful ordeal, but it’s not particularly serious.

Also known as bone spurs, a heel spur is a little more than a calcium deposit that can cause a protrusion at the bottom of the heel bone.

It can feel as though your heel is being stabbed by a pin or a knife.

Heel spurs are sometimes a result of plantar fasciitis—a painful condition that causes inflammation of the connective tissues along the bottom of the foot, extending along the foot underneath the Achilles—but they have other potential causes as well.

Most bone spurs are not serious and can be treated naturally, allowing you to avoid the inactivity that results from surgery for a bone spur in the heel and its recovery time.
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What Causes Bone Spurs in the Heel?

Bone spurs in your heel typically build up over the course of a few months—possibly unbeknownst to you—as calcium deposits accumulate in the area. However, they can also be cause by repeated stretching of the fascia (a fibrous muscle along the foot) and repeated wear and tear on the surrounding ligaments. Some of the causes of bone spurs include:

1. Athletics

Bone spurs are quite common in athletes because of the stress they repeatedly put on the area. Running and jumping are likely to result in bone spurs.

2. Gait Abnormalities

When you walk, step, or run in way that puts excessive force or stress on your heel bone and the conjoining ligaments and tendons, you are at an increased risk for a bone spur.

3. Where You Exercise

When you run or jog on hard surfaces such as concrete and pavement, the harder impact puts more pressure on the area and can result in heel spurs. Running on grass or using a treadmill can help fight against this.

4. Poorly Fitting Shoes

When your shoes don’t fit or the soles are worn out, more stress is placed in the area and there’s a greater chance you’ll notice a bone spur in the back of your heel. This is especially true of footwear lacking arch support, as well as high heels.

5. Age

The older you are, the more wear and tear your Achilles tendon and heel have undergone. Age also impacts flexibility in the heel and the thickness of protective tissues in the area.

6. Time Spent on Your Feet

The more time you spend on your feet, the greater your chance of developing a bone spur. However, the health benefits of standing opposed to sitting far outweigh the nuisance of a bone spur.

Some other causes of bone spurs include:

  • Diabetes
  • Flat feet or high arches
  • Excess weight and obesity
Morton’s neuroma

When you wear high heels you can develop a painful condition called Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening of the tissue around the nerves at the bases of your toes. It can lead to pain and numbness along the balls of your feet.

Other Causes of Foot Pain that Are Not Bone Spurs

Although you might notice a protrusion near your heel or at the base of your Achilles heel, a bone spur might not cause pain. Only about half the people who get bone spurs actually experience pain. Additionally, the foot has a very intricate construction of bones, tendons, and ligaments that are all subject to wear, tear, and injury. If you’re feeling some pain in the heel, foot, or Achilles, it’s not necessarily the result of a bone spur. It could be because of:

1. Repetitive Use

Use is the leading cause of heel pain and is most commonly experienced by people who walk heavy (i.e., stomp), carry extra weight, or run long distances. You could be experiencing the effects of a tight Achilles tendon, not a bone spur in the heel.

2. Impact Injuries

People can develop deep bruises on the fat pad of the heel or the ball of the foot based on stomping or another acute injury. Such pain can feel like walking on pebbles, but it’s not a bone spur.

3. Wearing High Heels

When you wear high heels you can develop a painful condition called Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening of the tissue around the nerves at the bases of your toes. It can lead to pain and numbness along the balls of your feet.

4. Arch Pain

Arch pain is often the result of plantar fasciitis, and it affects the heel and arch of the foot. This pain is especially noticeable when you wake up in the morning and apply pressure to the foot—that is, stand up—after a long period of lying down. Standing after sitting for a long time can also result in this pain.

How to Recognize Bone Spurs in Your Heel

Bone spurs can be without symptoms, or you may notice a protrusion near the heel or the base of your foot. They may also be present if you’re feeling:

  • Inflammation at the heel;
  • A tingling or stabbing pain in the heel;
  • Pain upon waking;
  • Pain when you stand after sitting;
  • Pain that turns to dull ache; and
  • Sharp pains that are repeatedly felt upon standing.

How Is a Bone Spur Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose a bone spur in your heel, an Achilles pain, or other foot pain by:

  • Performing a physical exam;
  • Asking questions about mobility, lifestyle, symptoms, etc., that would help them form an idea of why you’re experiencing pain;
  • Administering tests around the joint to examine range of motion;
  • Ordering X-rays; and
  • If needed, ordering a CT scan or an MRI.
Manage a Bone Spur in the Heel Naturally

How to Manage a Bone Spur in the Heel Naturally

1. Rest

If you’re experiencing pain in your foot resulting from a heel spur—or a sore Achilles—it’s smart to relieve the pressure from it. This is best done by sitting down and keeping weight off the foot, and limiting walking, jogging, or standing. Because a bone spur can be formed by pressure and wear and tear, giving your heel a break can help alleviate the pain.

2. Magnesium

Using magnesium supplements or boosting dietary magnesium may also help heal pain from a bone spur. Magnesium is very important because it’s essential to calcium utilization and might help break up the deposits in your heel. Aside from supplementing or eating more, you might find success by adding a cup of Epsom salts to your bath and soaking for about 20 minutes, while lightly massaging the affected area. To boost magnesium intake through food, try eating:

  • Avocadoes
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Black beans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Beans and legumes

3. Vitamin B5

One of the first signs of a vitamin B5 deficiency is muscle pain, and one of B5’s primary functions is the production of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is used to send nerve signals to muscles, while helping you avoid nerve damage and pain resulting from a heel spur. If you’ve got some foot pain or think you have a bone spur, getting some vitamin B5 may help.

4. Stretching Exercises

Stretching can also help provide relief from bone spurs by loosening up tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the area. Lean forward with your hands against a sturdy wall with your feet lined up one in front of the other. With your heels flat on the ground, your front knee should be bent slightly and the back one should be straight. Slowly start leaning forward as far as you can to stretch the heel and arch, holding for about 10 seconds. Complete 20 repetitions for the sore foot.

5. Other Treatments to Consider

  • Shoe inserts or orthotics
  • Purchasing new shoes with better arch support
  • Taping the foot to rest the muscles
  • Proteolytic enzymes
Warm up before exercising

Warm up before exercising to help prevent a bone spur in the heel.

What Is the Recovery Time for Bone Spurs to Heal?

  • If you have surgery, it might take three to seven days before you’re able to walk with a protective boot.
  • Usually it will take up to three weeks before you’re able to walk without discomfort.
  • Nine to 12 months may be required for natural treatments. If there is still pain after this time, surgery is recommended.
  • Ninety percent of heel spurs don’t need surgery.

Preventing Bone Spurs in Heel

You can prevent a bone spur by:

  • Wearing shoes that fit properly;
  • Getting shock-absorbent shoes;
  • Warming up before activity;
  • Stretching;
  • Pacing yourself during activity; and
  • Losing weight.

Possible Complications of Bone Spur in Heel

There are rarely complications with surgery for a bone spur in the heel, but they are possible.

  • Walking or putting too much pressure on the foot directly after can cause nerve damage.
  • Infection is possible if the area gets wet while the sutures are still in place.
  • Pain may continue if the surgery is not executed properly.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Bernstein, L., “Heel spurs,” Web MD, May 22, 2015; http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/heel-spurs-pain-causes-symptoms-treatments, last accessed April 25, 2016.
“Bone Spurs,” Mayo Clinic web site, February 27, 2015; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bone-spurs/basics/definition/con-20024478, last accessed April 25, 2016.


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Dr. Alwyn Wong, DC

About the Author, Browse Alwyn's Articles

Dr. Alwyn Wong has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over fifteen years and brings with him a wealth of experience. He uses an integrated treatment approach, combining active release techniques (ART®), acupuncture, chiropractic, nutritional consulting, and program design to treat his patients, many of whom have included professional athletes from the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and PGA, as well as Olympic, and IFBB athletes. Although his focus has shifted to more clinical work, he remains as... Read Full Bio »