Heel Spur: Definition and What it is
Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Heel Spur Definition and Meaning
A heel spur occurs when extra bone forms on the heel bone. It’s common in people who have chronic plantar fasciitis (when the plantar fascia — a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and supports your foot arch — becomes inflamed) or Achilles tendinitis (irritation of the fibers that form the Achilles tendon). Heel spurs usually develop gradually over time.
Heel Spur Symptoms
While the word “spur” may make you think of something pointy and painful, many heel spurs don’t cause any symptoms. However, heel spurs can contribute to heel pain when the soft tissues in the foot become irritated. You may notice a sharp pain in your heel upon waking up in the morning, or a dull, persistent ache in the heel throughout the day as you walk and move around. When this happens, you may also experience swelling and tenderness.
Heel Spur: A Hinge Health Perspective
Hearing that you have a heel spur can sound alarming, but keep in mind that your body is very resilient — it can adapt to manage the symptoms of a heel spur.
If you’re reluctant to move because you think you’ll cause more pain or injury, know this: Movement is often the fastest way to symptom relief. As our Hinge Health care team says, movement is medicine. The reason: You want the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your calves and feet to remain flexible and mobile. In order to do that, you need to engage in exercises that support your healing and strengthen your heel and the structures that support it.
Heel Spur Treatment
Heel spurs won’t go away on their own but you don’t need them to go away for you to get better. Most of the time, heel spur symptoms can be treated and managed with conservative measures and become less bothersome over time.
Treatments focus on calming down the irritation of the soft tissues with options that range from over-the-counter pain medication to ice and heat to reduce swelling to physical therapy. You also might temporarily try shoe inserts (orthotics) that provide extra support to your heel and arch, cushioning your plantar fascia or relieving some stress on your Achilles tendon. Lifestyle and activity modifications, like focusing on gentler movements and exercises that don’t aggravate your heel pain too much, can also help you calm down irritated tissues.
You’ll also want to focus on building stronger and healthier tissues with strength training for the foot, ankle, and lower body.
How Physical Therapy Can Help With Heel Spurs
Physical therapy can aid in easing pain that results from a heel spur, especially if you want support as you exercise. A physical therapist (PT) may use techniques such as stretching and strengthening exercises to improve foot mobility, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.
How Hinge Health Can Help You
If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.
The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.
Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition.
Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.
This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.
Perri, M. J., Beahrs, T., & Kadakia, A. R.(2022, August). Plantar fasciitis and bone spurs. OrthoInfo – American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/plantar-fasciitis-and-bone-spurs/
Young, C.C. March 23, 2023. Plantar Fasciitis. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/86143-overview?form=fpf