Anyone who has experienced painful heel spurs knows how debilitating this condition can be. Heel spurs cause mild to severe pain in many people, especially those who stand a lot in their jobs or are avid runners or walkers. Pain related to heel spurs can result in lost time at work, a decline in fitness level and missed activities. Fortunately, most sufferers can successfully treat heel spur pain at home.
Medicine Net defines a heel spur as “a bony spur projecting from the back or underside of the heel that often makes walking painful.” William C. Shiel, chief editor of Medicine Net, says that treatment involves “measures that decrease the associated inflammation and avoid re-injury.” Spurs can be under or at the back of the heel. Spurs under the heel “cause tenderness and pain at the back of the heel that is made worse by pushing off the ball of the foot,” while those at the back of the heel “cause localized tenderness and pain made worse by stepping down on the heel.”
The first line of defense for a person experiencing heel spur pain is to rest the feet and avoid activities that aggravate the condition. Taking a break from long-term standing and running can help the heel spur heal and provide pain relief.
Regularly putting ice on a heel spur can also ease pain. Orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Cluett, M.D. suggests freezing 12 or 16 oz. water bottles and rolling the frozen bottle under the foot for 10 to 15 minutes morning and night.
Relief of heel spur pain with exercise involves relaxing the tissues surrounding the heel bone. Performing exercises and stretches regularly over time can eliminate heel pain. Heel stretches, such as those done by standing on a step or curb and slowly lowering the heel, can be effective. Talk to a doctor before treating heel spurs with exercises.
Shoe Inserts, Night Splints and Medication
Adding inserts to shoes to help position the heel and take pressure off the spur can decrease pain during the day. Sleeping in night splints to keep the heel tissue stretched can help ease pain in the morning. Inserts and splints are available from online retailers for prices starting at $25 to $50. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can also help ease pain by reducing inflammation.
Last Resorts and Prevention
Jonathan Cluett, M.D. explains that home treatments take time and patience. A person suffering from heel spur pain should use a combination of rest, ice, exercise, shoe inserts, night splints and medication for several months to a year before most doctors will try other approaches, such as cortisone injections and surgery. For diligent patients, home treatments can be successful making injections and surgery last resorts for the doctor. Consult a doctor if pain persists. When heel pain is finally gone, emphasis turns to prevention. Patients can prevent a recurrence of heel spur pain by continuing to stretch and wearing properly fitting footwear.