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Ester Marsh: Heel spurs might be your feet saying they need a ‘rest’

Heel spurs, which are bone spurs, are a bony growth formed on a normal bone. A lot of people think that bone spurs are sharp and pointy, but a bone spur is “just” extra bone that is usually smooth. It can cause pain when it presses or rubs on other bones or soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, or nerves.

Bone spurs generally form in response to rubbing, pressure, or stress that continues over a long period of time. The body tries to repair itself by building extra bone.

Some bone spurs form as part of the aging process when cartilage that covers the ends of the bones breaks down and wears away. Heel spurs are bony growths that have formed on the heel. They can be caused by tight ligaments due to activities such as dancing or running.

Plantar fasciitis can over time be the reason for heel spurs. Other reasons can include the pressure on your feet from being overweight or wearing poorly fitting shoes.

The only way to know for sure that you have heel spurs (or any kind of bone spurs) is by having an X-ray. Symptoms can be absent until the spurs start to press on other bones or tissues. Over time they can break down the tissue, causing swelling, pain and tearing.

Now to the real question: can you exercise with them?

Yes, however, as always, check with your doctor first.

• When you have heel spurs, your feet need a “rest.” Your doctor might prescribe a boot for you to wear. Non-impact exercises such as swimming are the perfect exercise when dealing with heel spurs. You can even try a biking class and see if your feet can handle it. Stay away from impact such as running, aerobics, even intense walking.

• Support your arches with good supportive shoes and if needed have special inserts, our local Ralph Baker shoe store can help you with that.

• Ice your feet after exercising.

• Stretch you calves and feet extensively

• Be patient, since it can take six months to a year to get rid of the symptoms of heel spurs.

Other treatments to help your heel spurs can be:

• weight loss to take some pressure off the joints/feet.

• ultrasound

• reflexology

• deep tissue massage

• anti-inflammatory drugs your doctor may prescribe.

Sometimes your doctor may suggest a corticosteroid injection at the painful area to decrease pain and inflammation of the soft tissue next to the bone spur. Last resort can be surgery to remove the spurs.

Happy Labor Day!

Ester Marsh is Health & Fitness director of the JF Hurley family YMCA.

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