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Heel Spurs

Non-Surgical Treatments for Heel Spurs

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.

Surgery for Heel Spurs

More than 90 percent of people get better with nonsurgical treatments. If conservative treatment fails to treat symptoms of heel spurs after a period of 9 to 12 months, surgery may be necessary to relieve pain and restore mobility. Surgical techniques include:

  • Release of the plantar fascia
  • Removal of a spur

Pre-surgical tests or exams are required to identify optimal candidates, and it's important to observe post-surgical recommendations concerning rest, ice, compression, elevation of the foot, and when to place weight on the operated foot. In some cases, it may be necessary for patients to use bandages, splints, casts, surgical shoes, crutches, or canes after surgery. Possible complications of heel surgery include nerve pain, recurrent heel pain, permanent numbness of the area, infection, and scarring. In addition, with plantar fascia release, there is risk of instability, foot cramps, stress fracture, and tendinitis.

Prevention of Heel Spurs

You can prevent heel spurs by wearing well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent soles, rigid shanks, and supportive heel counters; choosing appropriate shoes for each physical activity; warming up and doing stretching exercises before each activity; and pacing yourself during the activities.

Avoid wearing shoes with excessive wear on the heels and soles. Lose weight if you're overweight or obese. 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 27, 2013

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