heel spurs from plantar fasciitis

Lee’s Summit Podiatrist Dr. Joel Foster Explains How Untreated Plantar Fasciitis Can Lead to Painful Heel Spurs

Plantar fasciosis, more commonly referred to as plantar fasciitis, is one of the most common causes of heel pain, with over two million Americans suffering from this condition. Here, Dr. Joel Foster explains how plantar fasciitis can lead to heel spurs and outlines what treatment options are available at our Lee’s Summit podiatry office. 

How “Plantar Fasciitis” Can Lead to Heel Spurs

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone (calcaneus) to the toes. “Plantar fasciitis” occurs when this fascia becomes thickened and the surrounding tissue becomes inflamed, usually due to repetitive strain or injury.

When the plantar fascia is chronically stressed, it can pull on the heel bone where it attaches. This constant tugging and tension can stimulate the body's natural bone-forming process, where calcium is deposited in an attempt to strengthen the area. Over time, this calcium buildup materializes as a heel spur.

Other factors that can contribute to the development of heel spurs include:

  • Biomechanical issues. Certain structural problems with the feet, such as flat feet or high arches, can alter the way weight is distributed and lead to excess stress on the heel. This can trigger spur formation over time.
  • Repetitive strain. Activities and occupations that involve a lot of walking, running, or standing on hard surfaces can repeatedly stress the heel, prompting the growth of a spur.
  • Aging. As we get older, the fat pad under the heel tends to thin out. This can make the heel bone more vulnerable to developing spurs, especially if other risk factors are present.
  • Obesity. Carrying extra body weight puts more pressure on the heel, which may contribute to spur development.
  • Change in activity. A job change or rapid change in exercise or activity can cause increased stress on the plantar fascial band and surrounding tissues. 

How to Tell If You Have “Plantar Fasciitis” or a Heel Spur

“Plantar fasciitis” typically causes sharp, stabbing pain on the bottom of the heel or along the arch of the foot. Pain from plantar fasciitis is typically increased when standing in the morning or after long periods of activity. 

Heel spurs don’t always cause pain, especially if they are not the result of untreated “plantar fasciitis.” However, if your heel spurs are causing pain, the pain is most likely directly under the heel bone.

Dr. Foster can help you pinpoint the cause of your pain with a physical examination. If your symptoms suggest you have a heel spur, an X-ray can confirm the diagnosis. This imaging technique can clearly show the bony protrusion on the underside of the heel bone. X-rays may also reveal other potential issues, such as arthritis, bone tumors, stress fractures, or structural abnormalities in the foot.

Other than X-rays, diagnosis ultrasound is often times very beneficial. We can use this to directly measure the thickness of plantar fascial band, which is why the service is included as part of our Better Feet Package.

Treating Heel Spurs

The key to treating heel spurs is addressing the underlying factors that contributed to spur formation. Common treatment approaches include:

  • Activity modification. Reducing high-impact activities that aggravate your heel, at least temporarily, can help calm inflammation. Dr. Foster may recommend taking a break from running, jumping, or prolonged standing.
  • Ice and anti-inflammatory medications. Applying ice to your heel and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises. Specific exercises that target the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and lower leg muscles can help improve flexibility, stability, and support for the heel.
  • Orthotics. Custom orthotic devices can redistribute weight and pressure away from the heel spur. Our Better Feet Package provides an affordable way to get orthotics that meet your unique needs. 
  • Laser therapy. This treatment uses low-intensity laser light to reduce inflammation and promote healing in the area around the heel spur.
  • EPAT (Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Treatment). EPAT is a non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to stimulate healing and break down the calcium deposits that form heel spurs.
  • Corticosteroid injections. In some cases, Dr. Foster may suggest injecting a corticosteroid medication directly into your heel to quickly reduce inflammation.
Whenever possible, Dr. Foster prefers to use non-surgical treatments. In fact, with all of the tools we have available, surgery is almost never needed for this condition. However, in the very rare cases that surgery is needed, Dr. Foster offers minimally invasive surgical techniques for removal of plantar heel spurs.
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