When you hear the word “spur” you may immediately think of cowboy boots. To help give the horse a little nudge in the right direction, a cowboy often wore boots with spurs on the heels. They were often necessary tools, and also added a little pizazz to a shiny new pair of cowboy boots. The human foot can also develop bone spurs, but they are not particularly useful. In fact, when they appear and worsen, they can be quite painful.
What Exactly Are Bone Spurs?
Simply put, a bone spur is an extra growth of bone tissue that forms a visible lump. While the spikes on a boot spur are very sharp, a bone spur is usually smooth. They can grow on any bone, and tend to appear near tendons that have become very tight and around joints. They typically develop where the tissues attached to a bone have been damaged or stressed for a period of time. In the foot, the heel and toe joints are common places for these growths to develop. Even though they are smooth and usually do not cause much harm, they can be highly irritating if they rub on other bones or are pressed against nearby ligaments, nerves or tendons.
In the foot, the most common bumps include heel spurs, which develop under the bottom of the heel, and Haglund’s deformity, which is bump on the back of the heel. There are also times when a condition called hallux rigidus, which affects the joint in the big toe, can lead to the growth of a bone spur.
What Can Cause the Extra Pressure?
First, the aging process alone can lead to this foot problem. As cartilage on the ends of bones wears down, which is called osteoarthritis, bone spurs can form along the edge of a joint. Other causes include involvement in activities that put a lot of stress on the feet, such as dancing and running, as well as wearing poor fitting shoes and being overweight. Plantar fasciitis is a particular injury to the band of tissue on the bottom of your foot. The plantar fascia can then pull on the calcaneus, resulting in calcium deposits that form a spur on the bottom of the heel. Wearing tight shoes that constrict and rub against the back of the foot can lead to a bump on the heel bone. This is often referred to as a “pump bump,” as the rigid backs of high heels are common culprits.
Helping Your Discomfort
Once we have confirmed through evaluation and X-ray that your symptoms stem from a bone spur, we can begin a tailored treatment plan. The primary goal will be to reduce pressure on the area to alleviate pain and swelling. We may also advise the use of an anti-inflammatory medication to help with swelling. Laser treatments may help with the pain. We can help you find proper footwear that will ease your pain and prevent the spur from getting worse. Pads can be used to reduce irritation, and orthotic inserts help support your feet and stabilize the area where the spur is located, so the joint doesn’t move around too much. If your pain is severe, it could be that the spur is pinching a blood vessel or a nerve. In this case we may discuss having the spur surgically shaved down or removed.
If you are experiencing pain in your feet or have noticed a hard, visible bump on the heel of your foot, take care of it quickly. Without intervention, it will likely continue to cause discomfort and could impact your activity level and mobility. Contact Harvey R. Danciger, DPM for more information or to schedule an appointment. You can reach our Palm Desert, CA office by calling (760) 568-0108.