Heel spurs are one of the most common causes of heel pain. Luckily, though, heel spur surgery is a relatively simple procedure that can alleviate pain. But, before you opt for surgery, understand what’s involved in the procedure, recovery and aftercare.

Keep reading to learn about all of your options for heel spur removal and how surgery might help you.

What Is a Heel Spur?

A heel spur is a calcium deposit that grows on the heel of the foot. It creates a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel or underneath the sole of the foot.

Spurs are caused by pressure or excessive strain and friction. Athletes who do a lot of running and jumping are at a higher risk for developing heel spurs, but there are other contributing factors, as well:

  • exercise
  • poor-fitting shoes
  • flat feet
  • excess weight

Some heel spurs don’t cause any pain, but when pain is present, it’s often associated with plantar fasciitis (characterized by painful inflammation along the bottom and ball of the foot). 

How to Heal a Heel Spur

In most cases, doctors recommend non-surgical treatments before opting for heel spur surgery, because more than 90% of people with a heel spur get better without the need for surgery. Non-surgical treatments usually include stretches and physical therapy.

To help ease pain and inflammation, doctors might also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers (like acetaminophen and ibuprofen). If relief is not achieved by non-surgical intervention and pain relievers, the doctor may utilize a cortisone injection.

If pain is not gone within 9 to 12 months, surgery is often recommended.

Heel Spur Surgery

Before the 1990s, the surgical method for alleviating pain from a heel spur involved removing the spur from the bone. To do this, surgeons detached the plantar fascia ligament from the heel bone, which involves a small incision on the side of the foot.

Essentially, these procedures relied on a surgeons ability to “feel” for the bone spur, and the inaccuracy of the procedure lead to a long healing time (with many patients reporting continued pain following surgery).

Today, heel spur surgery is far more advanced and these advanced methods lead to higher success rates and shorter recovery times.

The new surgical method for heel spur removal is called endoscopic plantar fascial release. Similar to the former procedure, a small incision is made in the side of the heel. But, that’s where the similarities stop.Through that incision, the surgeon places a small cannula that makes space for the insertion of the arthroscopic camera. (This camera provides the surgeon greater accuracy.)

Using the camera, the surgeon can quickly identify the plantar fascia ligament and once they’ve found it, they cut it using a small blade. The camera and the small surgical blade provide more control over where and how much of the plantar fascia is cut. 

Heel Spur Removal Recovery

Heel spur removal is an outpatient surgery. It’s usually done in a hospital operating room or an outpatient surgical hospital. Patients can have local anesthesia, twilight anesthesia or general anesthesia. 

Following the surgery, the surgeon will apply gauze to the procedure site and may use a post-operative shoe or a cast. Depending on where you had your surgery and how limited your mobility is, you may need to use crutches for a few weeks following the procedure.

Activity should be limited during the first week post-op, but for the most part, you will be able to walk on your foot immediately.

In terms of getting back to work, it generally depends on what you do. People with desk jobs may be able to return to work within a week of surgery. But, those who have labor-intensive jobs that require long hours of standing and/or carrying heavy loads will require more time off.

Heel Spur Surgery After Care

To ensure you have the fastest possible recovery with the fewest complications, follow these simple tips:

  • Add extra padding to the inside of your shoes.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and fit the activity you’re doing.
  • Get a lot of rest. Surgery can make you feel more tired than usual, but sleeping gives your body a chance to heal.
  • Take any medications as prescribed. This includes pain medication and antibiotics. Antibiotics require a full cycle in order to work, so don’t stop taking them because you feel okay.
  • Until the surgical dressing is removed, keep it clean and dry. Don’t attempt to remove it on your own – your doctor will tell you when it’s safe to do so. You should also leave any strips of tape on the incision until your doctor removes them or tells you it’s okay to do so.

One of the most important aspects of heel spur surgery aftercare is to see your doctor. Make sure to attend all of your follow-up appointments, and if you have any questions or concerns, call your doctor immediately.

Risks of Heel Bone Spur Surgery

The risks of bone spur surgery are relatively limited. Since the procedure was introduced, the success rate of the surgery has been notoriously high, but of course, like any surgical option, there are risks.

Make sure you don’t walk excessively on your foot following surgery. Otherwise, you risk damaging the soft tissue in the heel. Damaging the soft tissue early-on in the recovery process won’t allow you to heal and it may cause continued pain in the heel and foot.

Post-surgical infection can also occur. Reduce your chances of getting an infection by keeping the surgical site dry and clean (as noted above).

Suffering From Heel Pain?

If you have a heel spur, your doctor will likely have you try non-surgical treatments first. If non-surgical options don’t work, then surgery will be recommended. With its high success rate and relatively short recovery time, though, heel spur surgery can help you get back to normal quickly.

If you’ve been struggling with heel pain that’s not getting better, consider heel spur surgery with Edgewood Surgical Hospital. Contact us today to find out how we can help.