Your body is comprised of a variety of systems that continually work to solve problems and regenerate tissue that has been damaged. Whereas it cannot do everything on its own and sometimes requires external help, your body is often quite capable of fixing itself. You only need to look to your skeletal system to find a clear example. Broken bones have the remarkable ability to heal themselves. Doing so may lead to unwanted bone spurs, but the fact that your bones become functional again is quite impressive.
Extra Bone Tissue
As your body repairs a broken bone by generating additional tissue, or tries to create protection for areas that face excessive pressure, growths may develop on normal bone. These growths are known as bone spurs, but don’t let the term “spur” fool you – this extra bone tissue is often smooth, not sharp. Even though it is smooth, a bone spur can lead to pain and excessive wear and tear on other bones or soft tissue like tendons, ligaments, or nerves.
In addition to healing a broken bone, your body may produce a bone spur in your foot as a result of poorly-fitting shoes, tight ligaments, pressure from excessive weight, and stress from activities like dancing and running. Plantar fasciitis is a common injury that provides an example of how this can happen. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that lines the bottom of your foot, running from heel to the base of your toes. When it becomes stressed, the fascia can pull on the heel and alert your body to the fact that something is wrong. While your body attempts to correct the situation by healing itself, a heel spur (variation of a bone spur) can develop on the bottom of your heel.
An example of when poorly-fitting footwear leads to uncomfortable heel pain from bone spurs is a “pump bump.” This condition is known as such because it is commonly seen in female patients who frequently wear high heels. Constant pressure on the back of the heel from shoes that are too tight will cause the body to protect itself by forming a protective bone spur. This creates an issue when the heel spur aggravates the bursa sac located in the back of the heel.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
If it is isn’t affecting anything else, a bone spur will not have any symptoms. Basically, it feels like any other bone in your body would. They only become noticeable when they affect another bone, a tendon, or other tissue. When a spur rubs against another part, it will cause a breakdown of the softer tissue in time, which will lead to tearing, pain, and swelling. Corns and calluses can be caused by a bone spur as well.
An X-ray is typically required to show if a bone spur exists, but since they are usually benign, doctors do not typically look for them unless there is an existing problem. If you are experiencing pain or problems that are often related to bone spurs, such as arthritis, we will check to see if one is causing the difficulty.
A bone spur does not require treatment if it is not damaging other tissue or causing you pain. When problems do exist, conservative treatment methods are often effective in helping to address any pain and discomfort caused by a problematic bone spur. Treatment methods include rest, ice, stretching, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (with doctor approval). Extra padding in your shoes or the use of orthotics can be helpful in alleviating any undesirable symptoms. Surgery may become an option, but not in most cases.
You can target the root causes of bone spurs by losing weight (in order to decrease the amount of pressure sustained by your joints) and stretching the bottom of your foot and the heel cord. If you are living with plantar fasciitis, make an appointment with us and we will give you steps to keep a bone spur from forming. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help with any bone spur issue you may face. Contact our Austin, TX office by calling (512) 328-8900 or using our online form today.
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