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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. Heel spurs are common in patients who have a history of foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
Heel spurs can be caused by several things. Anything that can cause the body to rebuild itself can lead to a bone spur. A heel spur is a natural reaction of the body to correct a weakness by building extra bone. One of the most common causes for the development of heel spurs is the wearing of shoes that are too tight. That?s why more women suffer from heel spurs more than men. Athletes who tend to stress their feet a lot, people are overweight who have more pressure on their lower extremities and the elderly also tend to suffer more from heel spurs.
With heel spurs, people often talk about a dull ache which is felt most of the time with episodes of a sharp pain in the center of the heel or on the inside margin of the heel. Often the pain is worse on first rising in the morning and after rest and is aggravated by prolonged weight bearing and thin-soled shoes.
A thorough history and physical exam is always necessary for the proper diagnosis of heel spurs and other foot conditions. X rays of the heel area are helpful, as excess bone production will be visible.
Non Surgical Treatment
Ice and use arch support . If you can localize the spur, cut a hole in a pad of felt and lay the hole over the spur. This supports the area around the spur and reduces pressure on it. Massage the spur. Start gently with your thumb and gradually increase the pressure until you?re pushing hard directly on the spur with your knuckle or another firm object. Even it if hurts, it should help. Arch support. Build up an arch support system in your shoes. Try to equalize the pressure of your body weight throughout your arch and away from the plantar area. Use a ?cobra pad? or other device that supports the arch but releases pressure on the painful area. If homemade supports do not work, see a podiatrist about custom orthotics.
Sometimes bone spurs can be surgically removed or an operation to loosen the fascia, called a plantar fascia release can be performed. This surgery is about 80 percent effective in the small group of individuals who do not have relief with conservative treatment, but symptoms may return if preventative measures (wearing proper footwear, shoe inserts, stretching, etc) are not maintained.
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