Ester Marsh column: Do you have bone spurs?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2022

One of our members stopped me the other day and asked if he could exercise with bone spurs in his foot. Let’s first explain what bone spurs 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 which 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 (covers the ends of the bones) breaks down and wears away. When discs wear away between the vertebrae over time bone spurs will form along the edges of the joint. Heel spurs are bony growths that have formed on the heel. It can be caused by tight ligaments due to activities such as dancing and or running. Plantar fasciitis can over time be the reason for heel spurs. Other reasons for heel spurs can be the pressure on your feet from being overweight or even 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 done. 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 question, can you exercise?

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

• When you have heel spurs, your feet need a “rest.” 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 or even intense walking.

• Support your arches with good supportive shoes and if needed have special inserts.

• Ice your feet after exercising.

• Stretch you calves and feet extensively

• Be patient. It can take 6 months to a year to get rid of the symptoms of heel spurs.

Other treatments to help your heel spurs:

• 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 bone spurs.

All in all, keep moving with doctor’s blessing, and the water would be a great start!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.