Heel spurs are one of the most common foot problems, affecting about 2 million people in the US each year, or about 15% of the population. When you have heel spurs, it can make it difficult and even painful for you to walk. This condition tends to be the most painful right after you wake up.
Heel spurs cause pain but you can often get a lot of pain relief by wearing night splints before you go to bed. That’s because heel spurs are worsened by tight calf muscles, which can stretch out by wearing night splints. The providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine explain more about how night splints can heal your heel spurs.
What are heel spurs?
Heel spurs are often confused with plantar fasciitis but the two conditions are different. In fact, it’s also possible to have both conditions at the same time. Heel spurs are caused by calcium deposits which form on your heel, often sticking out a bit from your foot.
In the early stages heel spurs may not include pain, but some common symptoms may include:
- Pain on the bottom of your foot near your heel
- Pain when you first wake up in the morning
- Pain after (but not during) increased activity
Plantar fasciitis has many of the same symptoms but different causes. Plantar fasciitis is caused by the fascia (or tissue) that runs as a band between your heels and the balls of your feet.
Risk factors for heel spurs
While you can’t predict whether or not you’ll develop heel spurs, certain factors increase the odds that you’ll develop them. Some of these risk factors include:
- Stress or strain placed on your feet
- A gait disorder (problems with your walking)
- Tight calf muscles
- Obesity or being overweight
- Repetitive activities, such as running
- Having very high arches
- New or increased levels of activity
Heel spurs can also happen if you have plantar fasciitis because your feet will experience more inflammation and stress. Over time, this can cause your body to build up extra bone tissue, resulting in heel spurs.
How podiatrists examine heel spurs
If you have heel spurs, you should make an appointment with one of our providers. Some of the tests that will be conducted may include:
- Foot examination
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests are rarely used, but may be done
Your bone spurs are typically diagnosed by X-rays.
How to treat bone spurs
The easiest and best thing to do is to try conservative treatment at home first. This includes the following:
Wearing a night splint can also help with your heel spurs. Be sure to seek our providers’ recommendations on what type of night splint is most helpful. Most people sleep with their toes pointing outward, which can increase the amount of strain on your feet.
A night splint can stretch out your calves while you sleep, allowing you to wake up without that familiar foot pain. But you have to choose the right night splint and it might cost more than you’re expecting. Avoid the temptation to opt for a cheaper alternative; you might save a few dollars but it’s not as likely to fit well, which means you won’t reap the benefits.
If you have heel spurs or think that you might, it’s a good idea to make an appointment for a consultation. Contact the providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine or request an appointment online.