The two most common causes of pain in the bottom of the heel, the arch, or both the heel and the arch, are heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. A Heel Spur is a piece of calcium or bone that sticks out from the bottom of the heel bone, and lies within the fibers of the plantar fascia. When walking, the spur digs into the plantar fascia and causes small micro-tears in the plantar fascia. This produces inflammation and pain in the heel, which at times may radiate into the arch.
Faulty foot structures such as abnormal growths, different leg lengths, and unhealed injuries and haveinf flat feet or high arches. Muscle imbalances tight, weak or shortened muscles in your foot, plantar fascia, ankle, calf and hamstring. Over pronation can cause imbalance in foot mechanics which puts excess pressure on the plantar fascia. Poor biomechanics affect the way your foot hits the ground. If you overpronate (feet roll inward) you tend to have flat feet (pes planus), which increases stress on the heel bone. Regular shoes or high heels that are too tight or don't support your heel or arch affect the distribution of your body weight on your foot. Health conditions such as obesity, inflammatory diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis), bursitis, neuroma (nerve growths), gout, diabetes, Haglund's deformity, and Achilles tendinitis can also instigate the problem. Running or jogging on hard surfaces, repetative striking of the heel bone.
Symptoms may be similar to those of plantar fasciitis and include pain and tenderness at the base of the heel, pain on weight bearing and in severe cases difficulty walking. The main diagnosis of a heel spur is made by X-ray where a bony growth on the heel can be seen. A heel spur can occur without any symptoms at all and the athlete would never know they have the bony growth on the heel. Likewise, Plantar fasciitis can occur without the bone growth present.
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
The heel pain associated with heel spurs and plantar fasciitis may not respond well to rest. If you walk after a night's sleep, the pain may feel worse as the plantar fascia suddenly elongates, which stretches and pulls on the heel. The pain often decreases the more you walk. But you may feel a recurrence of pain after either prolonged rest or extensive walking. If you have heel pain that persists for more than one month, consult a health care provider. He or she may recommend conservative treatments such as stretching exercises, shoe recommendations, taping or strapping to rest stressed muscles and tendons, shoe inserts or orthotic devices, physical therapy. Heel pain may respond to treatment with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve). In many cases, a functional orthotic device can correct the causes of heel and arch pain such as biomechanical imbalances. In some cases, injection with a corticosteroid may be done to relieve inflammation in the area.
Almost 90% of the people suffering from heel spur get better with nonsurgical treatments. However, if the conservative treatments do not help you and you still have pain even after 9 to 12 months, your doctor may advise surgery for treating heel spur. The surgery helps in reducing the pain and improving your mobility. Some of the surgical techniques used by doctors are release of the plantar fascia. Removal of a spur. Before the surgery, the doctor will go for some pre-surgical tests and exams. After the operation, you will need to follow some specific recommendations which may include elevation of the foot, waiting time only after which you can put weight on the foot etc.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can only be prevented by treating any underlying associated inflammatory disease.