A recent statistical analysis has shown, around 4-7% of the general population experiences heel pain. In 80% of the cases, plantar fasciitis is the source of this pain while heel spur attributes for the remaining 20%.
Most of the times, plantar fasciitis and heel spur are confused with one another due to the common nature of symptoms.
This may lead to improper diagnosis and further complications as heel spur may appear as a secondary response to plantar fasciitis but heel spur itself does not lead to plantar fasciitis. This is partly because of the similar symptoms and partly due to a lack of information.
Both these disorders lead to chronic inflammation and pain in the feet. However, there exists a narrow boundary that distinguishes Plantar Fasciitis Vs Heel Spur, thereby aiding in proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Major Difference Between Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spur
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a ligament connecting heel bone to the front of the feet.
This ligament functions as strain absorber. However, too much pressure on the plantar fascia can lead to tissue inflammation. This inflammation then leads to pain, redness and swelling in the heel.
A heel spur is a condition where excessive calcium deposition on the heel bone leads to the formation of bony protrusion in the heel region.
Usually, a damaged heel bone or overstressed plantar fascia ligament leads to this calcium deposition in the heel region, the heel spur.
Normally, the condition is known as ‘bone spur’ and particularly called ‘heel spur’ because of its location on the heel. Heel spur leads to a stabbing pain in the heel, complicated upon workout or excess walk.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis Vs Heel Spurs
Major Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The main cause of plantar fasciitis is damage to the plantar fascia due to excessive pressure. Following activities may lead to this excessive strain:
Spending too much time walking or standing
Lifting heavy weights, particularly with a wrong posture
Wearing worn-out and uncomfortable footwear (Unsupportive footwear can also put a strain on the plantar fascia).
Obesity or Excess body weight
Major Causes of Heel Spur
On the other hand, a heel spur is a consequence of calcium deposition on the underlying heel bone. This deposition occurs slowly over a period of months. Some of the common reasons for this calcium deposition are:
Plantar fasciitis; Heel spur may originate as a secondary condition following plantar fasciitis.
Damaged heel bone
Repetitive tearing of the membranes covering the heel bones.
Repetitive strain on the feet as a result of continuous walking, jogging or running.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis Vs Heel Spur
Distinctive Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Some of the most common and notable symptoms of plantar fasciitis include; redness, swelling, and inflammation of the heel. People suffering from plantar fasciitis also experience a sharp and burning pain in the foot arch and heel. This pain is extreme during the daytime but gradually subsides as the day progresses.
Distinctive Symptoms of Heel Spur
Contrary to plantar fasciitis, the symptoms of heel spur are more localized to the heel area. The stabbing sensation occurs as the jagged calcium deposits literally stab the heel, tearing the paddy fat support lying underneath. To identify whether heel spur has occurred as a result of plantar fasciitis, you need to monitor the symptoms carefully. If you experience stabbing pain in the heel, months after your plantar fasciitis condition, heel spur has occurred as a consequence of plantar fasciitis.
The confusing nature of symptoms is an important point of consideration while diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis Vs Heel Spur. To help avoid this confusion, one important approach is to identify the exact location of the pain. The pain is mostly felt in the arch with plantar fasciitis, while heel centered stabbing pain is associated with a heel spur.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis Vs Heel Spur
If you routinely experience heel pain, swelling and discomfort in the feet, you should see a doctor immediately. Getting a proper medical diagnosis is the first step towards a proper and timely cure. Your doctor will most likely take a foot X-ray in order to confirm between Plantar Fasciitis Vs Heel Spur. Moreover, the diagnosis will help rule out the related ailments such as fractured heel, tarsal tunnel syndrome or Achilles tendinitis.
We know that a plantar fasciitis often leads to heel spur. Therefore, plantar fasciitis treatment will in return eliminate the risk of a heel spur.
Prevention is always better than cure. Thereupon, when you experience a heel pain attack, use soothing and pain-relieving strategies such as;
Stop activity as putting more strain on the feet can worsen the condition
Ice the bottom of your feet to relieve inflammation and swelling.
Assure the comfort of your footwear. In other words, use supportive footwear, specially designed to relieve foot discomfort such as heel spur shoes or shoes for plantar fasciitis.
Use heel cups, the soft silicone pieces, to support your heel. Arch support insoles and night splints may also help to cure the conditions.
The medical treatment may consist of the following approaches:
Pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medication is used for treating both plantar fasciitis and heel spur such as naproxen (aleve) and ibuprofen. Steroid injections containing cortisone are also used to relieve pain because of their anti-inflammatory action of muscles, tendons, and joints.
This approach involves stretching of the plantar fascia and calve muscles. The physiotherapist may also perform some manual techniques. Specific exercises are prescribed. Normally, plantar fasciitis exercises and heel spur exercises are one and the same thing. These consist of:
Calf stretches on the wall
When performing calf stretch on the wall lean forward against the wall one leg should be in front of the other. Straighten the back leg and press the heel into the floor while the front knee is bent. Stay in this position for 15-30 seconds. This exercise should be performed on a flat floor and the back toe should point in the direction of the heel of the front foot.
Calf stretches on the step
This exercise is performed by standing on the bottom step of the stairs and placing the ball of the foot on the step edge. The next step is to slowly put your weight on the heel of the foot and pushing the heel lower than the step edge. Stay in this position for 15-30 seconds.
Sit tall on the floor with your legs straight wrap a towel around the ball of one foot and pull it with the towel, stay in this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat this exercise a few times.
If the condition does not improve after 6 to 12 months of non-surgical approaches, surgery remains the last choice. Heel spur surgery is common by means of either plantar fascia release or the gastrocnemius recession of the calf muscle.
The successful treatment of plantar fasciitis and heel spur lies in the successful diagnosis of either condition. Only routine checkups, appropriate remedial measures, and medical treatments can help avoid complications.