Commonly known as bone spurs, osteophytes are bony projections that often develop at places where bones, ligaments, or tendons meet each other. When these bone spurs develop along the edges of the heel bone, these are referred to as heel spurs. Since the heel bone is medically referred to as the calcaneus, these are also called calcaneal spurs. Though the outer surface of the calcaneus is very tough, it is not immune to injuries. Calcaneal stress fractures are also not very uncommon. The heel bone can fracture due to a fall from a height or other high impact injuries. Since the heel bone carries the body weight while we stand, walk, or run, this bone is under a lot of strain. At times, even a heel spur might fracture due to accidental falls or injuries.
Causes and Symptoms
Heel spurs or heel spur fractures can be attributed to the anatomical structure of the heel bone. These are brought on due to strain of the supporting structures of the feet. One of the common causes of calcaneal spur syndrome is a condition called plantar fasciitis. This condition is associated with the inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a tough ligament that runs across the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia usually gets inflamed due to excessive strain on the feet. The body responds to the inflammation by forming a calcaneal spur. The formation of a spur is basically the body's way of responding to the constant pulling on the bone attachment from a tendon or a ligament.
When the ligaments or tendons get inflamed, the body tries to repair the damage by forming an extra bone in the affected area. Since dancers, sprinters, rock climbers, roofers, and those who are overweight are more likely to experience repeated stress or pulling of plantar fascia, they are more susceptible to developing heel spurs. These bony projections can cause a lot of pain, if they start pressing against the surrounding tissues. High impact injuries caused due to jumping and landing on the calcaneus can also cause the calcaneal spur to fracture. A broken heel spur can cause symptoms such as:
- Severe heel pain
- Pain while standing
- Pain while walking
- Pain while running
A fractured heel spur generally affects a person ability to bear weight on the heel. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the impact, as well as the position of the affected foot at the time of injury.
While you can follow certain self-care measures, it is always better to consult a doctor for the treatment of an osteophyte fracture. Besides conducting a physical examination and analyzing the symptoms, doctors may also order an X-ray to determine the extent of the damage. It's important to determine if it's the heel spur that has fractured or one has suffered from a calcaneal bone fracture. If the X-ray reveals a fractured calcaneal spur, doctors might recommend surgery as a part of the calcaneal fracture treatment. After undergoing surgery, patient will need to take all possible precautions to speed up recovery process.
If the X-ray reveals just a broken heel spur, doctors might adhere to the RICE approach. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The patient must take ample rest and refrain from any strenuous physical activity that puts stress on the heel bone. Application of ice packs and compression bandages will also help in reducing the swelling. Keeping the affected leg elevated while sleeping or sitting will also help. One must use crutches and avoid putting weight on the affected foot. Anti-inflammatory drugs are also prescribed for reducing the heel pain. If the injury is severe and this approach doesn't work well, doctors might recommend a surgery. Once the patient has recovered considerably, he/she can also perform exercises to strengthen the heel bone. Wearing orthotic devices or shoes with a proper arch support will also prove beneficial and reduce the strain on the arch.
Since calcaneal bone bears the weight of the body, any injury to this bone must be taken seriously. If you have developed a fractured heel spur, and you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, seek medical assistance at the earliest for proper treatment.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.