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There can be many causes of a painful foot. But what can a painful heel mean? What could be the reason? This type of pain is hard to ignore because every time we get up, the pain returns. Today we will take a closer look at one of the main causes of heel pain – heel spur.

What is a heel spur?

What is often called a heel spur is also known as plantar fasciitis. The aponeurosis is like a hammock stretched between the heel and the toes. Therefore, it supports the arch of the foot and protects against excessive loads. The aponeurosis is durable, but unfortunately, injuries can also occur here. It consists of three parts, although the middle one is considered the source of pain.

calcaneal spur

The cause of the pain is not bone protrusions (osteophytes) , although they often form on the plantar side of the heel bone. They are even visible on an X-ray. However, it is inflammation that causes pain.

1 in 10 people will have these bony growths. Only 1 in 20 people with bony spurs will have pain.

Bone growths are just there and do no harm. They will not penetrate the skin.

Why does a spur form?

It is not entirely known what the cause of spur formation is, but it is very possible that it may be due to a combination of several factors. The risk is higher in people:

  • Beginning sports training
  • With a high foot arch
  • Training too much and too early, without prior preparation
  • Those training with a tight calf and heel (read about calf problems and injuries in my two articles about  the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles )
  • Stretching the sole of the foot too much during exercise
  • Wearing inappropriate footwear (stiff sole)

Symptoms of heel spur

  • The pain will be right at the heel, stabbing and disturbing when walking.
  • The spur will hurt especially after rest
  • The pain will decrease with physical activity
  • It’s hard to lift your fingers up

Treatment and how to help yourself

In 90% of cases, people with heel spurs can expect complete recovery within 12 months. However, it is difficult to achieve immediate improvement. But, what can help?:

  • Cold compresses every 2-3 hours – see how cold works 
  • Foot movements – mobilization with gentle stretching (see below)
  • Avoid high-heeled shoes
  • Wear shoes with soft soles
  • Use silicone heel inserts
  • Wear the brace at night (it will reduce pain in the morning)
  • Physiotherapy; here manual therapy, therapeutic massage, work with fascia and exercises (especially with weights – see below) will be used.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents

Rarely needed

  • Steroid injections
  • Operation

Are you sure it’s a spur?

Heel pain does not necessarily mean a spur, as there are many other causes of pain:

  • Inflammation of the bursa around the Achilles tendon
  • Inflammation of the Achilles tendon insertion
  • Joint degeneration
  • Haglund’s disease (avascular necrosis of the calcaneus)

Other causes of heel pain include, for example, systemic diseases such as:

Radiological examinations may be helpful in the diagnosis . For example, X-ray and MRI will help rule out other causes of pain

Mary spells for heel pain 😊

When the pain persists, we turn to folk medicine. But unfortunately, they will not be effective. Internet forums recommend, for example, wrapping the heel in bacon overnight or putting walnut leaves in the shoe. Tapping your heel with a thirty-centimeter wooden spoon every evening

The best exercises for heel spurs

A. Heel raises on a stepper

This is a key exercise if you want to get rid of pain!

The best exercises will be to raise your heels using a stepper. This was clearly demonstrated in Danish clinical trials published in 2014.

Note: be sure to put a towel under your toes!

Try it on one leg first, but if it’s too difficult, you can do this exercise on two legs.

First 2 weeks:

Exercise every other day

12 reps x 3 sets

Raising the heels – 2 seconds, lowering the heels – 3 seconds

Next 4 weeks:

Increase the load: use a backpack with books

10 reps x 4 sets

Over time – 8 repetitions x 5 sets

Watch this exercise in the video below.

B. Self-massage of the sole of the foot while standing using a tennis or golf ball

C. Gentle stretching and mobilization of the calf (gastrocnemius and soleus)

There are plenty of interesting exercises on YouTube to strengthen your feet and muscles. Here are a few of them:

Good luck with your exercises! 🙂

Heel spurs can be very painful and make life miserable, but the prognosis is good. Most cases will go away within 12 months.

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