Anyone who has had a heel spur will tell you that it can be a very uncomfortable experience. Caused by calcium deposits that grow from the calcaneus, also known as the heel, these spurs stick out into the soft tissue of the heel. This can cause a great deal of pain and swelling, although some people never exhibit any symptoms.
Heel spurs may grow as long as a half inch, and often resemble a hook. This hook can cause damage to the surrounding soft tissue, resulting in significant pain, swelling, and redness. Despite the hardened, bone-like characteristics of heel spurs, the only way to diagnose this condition is through x-rays. This is because these bony protrusions can mimic other conditions, and they don’t usually grow long enough to cause a difference in the appearance of the heel, aside from swelling and redness. Very few cases may cause a slightly visible bump.
Patients with heel spurs have a few options for treatment. These include home remedies and more involved intervention by a doctor. However, home remedies cannot make bone spurs go away. Rest, applying ice, taking medication to reduce swelling, and wearing supportive footwear are home remedies that may help ease symptoms.
Doctors have more resources at their disposal to treat bone spurs. They can prescribe custom orthotics, give cortisone injections, and even perform surgery to physically remove bone spurs. Orthotics and cortisone injections can improve symptoms, while surgery can totally rid the patient of the pain and discomfort. Before considering surgery, the more conservative treatments should be attempted. If patients aren’t achieving successful outcomes with these options, the best treatment for heel spurs that a doctor can provide prior to surgical intervention is shockwave therapy.
Acoustic wave therapy, or shockwave therapy, uses “pressure waves…to deliver a mechanical force to the body’s tissues.” These shock waves are a way for doctors to kick start the body’s healing mechanisms. When acoustic waves are applied to the area, they cause microtrauma which signals increased blood flow to the area. With increased blood flow also comes nutrients, as the circulatory system is how these vital resources are distributed through the body. Both of these aid in promoting healing to the heel and surrounding tissues. The damage caused through the delivery of this treatment should then heal, reducing the pain and discomfort.
Aside from aiding in healing heel spurs, shockwave therapy is favored by patients because it’s less invasive and more affordable than surgery. Unfortunately, it is not a treatment that is covered by insurance, but studies show that it is an effective treatment. Between 80 and 90 percent of patients report reduced pain and inflammation, while up to 30% of patients showed reduction in the protrusion of bone spurs after repeated treatments.
Pain from heel spurs can disrupt everyday life. Patients shouldn’t grit and bear it. Dr. Elmi is an expert in shockwave therapy for a variety of foot and ankle conditions. If you’d like to discuss shockwave therapy as a treatment for your bone spurs, you can request a consultation with Dr. Elmi at Diablo Foot & Ankle. Give us a call today at 925-464-1982!