A calcaneal spur is a bony spike formation which develops on the heel of the foot in response to chronic pressure or traumatic injuries. They may also be known as traction exostosis, heel spurs, or calcaneus spurs. A calcaneal spur can often be treated with rest and physical therapy, but a severe case may require surgery.
The formation of a heel spur is one of the most common reasons for the development of heel pain. The spur forms due to thickening of the calcaneal bone in the heel of the foot, which causes pain because the new bone growth presses into the surrounding heel tissue. In most cases, the pain is worst immediately after rising, and gradually eases up over the course of the day.
Calcaneal spurs may develop for a variety of reasons, including weight gain, wearing improper footwear, and plantar faciitis, an inflammation of the arch of the foot. A calcaneal heel spur may also develop if calf muscles are weak, because of the extra pressure this places on the heels. People with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or poor circulation are at increased risk of developing a heel spur.
Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of an X-ray, which will indicate where the spur is located on the heel. There are several different types of heel spur treatment. In the early stages of the disease, treatments such as regular exercise, weight loss, or supportive footwear can help prevent the spur from developing further. Exercises to strengthen the calf muscles are most helpful, as they help reduce the pressure placed on the heel during movement.
In more advanced cases, pain may be more severe, and not limited to the morning period. Over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatories and analgesics may be helpful; in very severe cases, a doctor may prescribe steroid medications to reduce inflammation, as well as stronger painkillers. Elevation and application of heat also help reduce pain, as these treatments improve blood circulation to the foot.
If none of these treatments work in the long term, calcaneal spur surgery may be required to correct the problem. Surgery is carried out to remove the spur entirely, and as long as the factors which caused the spur to form are no longer present, it is unlikely to regrow. During this procedure, an incision is made at the side of the heel, through which the spur of bone is removed. The recovery period for this surgery is often long, and may take several months.