Heel or Bone Spur (Plantar Fasciitis)

a foot clad in a red shoe, suffering the pain of bone spurs

A bone spur is a pointed growth on a bone that is usually located on the heel of the foot. These are usually caused by continual and extreme stress and strain on the soft tissues and the heel bone, leading to a bone spur. The plantar fascia is a ligament on the bottom of the foot that attaches to the ball of the foot and the heel bone. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the connective tissue, the cause of which is uncertain. When this condition is not relieved the repeated pulling of the ligament aggravates the heel bone, and eventually the body, in an attempt to heal itself, forms a spur. Usually, the pain associated with a heel spur occurs with the first step in the morning or after periods of inactivity. The pain may extend forward into the sole, and disability is sometimes severe. Sometimes x-rays do not show an abnormality.

CAUSES & RISK FACTORS

Bone spurs can be caused by physical injury, gout, obesity, lupus, muscle problems, muscle inflammation, strain of the plantar arch, excessive walking, standing or exercise. In athletes, continual pounding (e. g., in long-distance runners) creates a chronic soreness in the feet that can be recognized as plantar fasciitis. PF is likely the result of a multiple of factors:

  • Heel spurs.  Approximately one half of all patients identified with Plantar Fasciitis have heel spurs.
  • Obesity.  A sudden gain in weight or long-term obesity puts extended pressure on the area of the foot.
  • Occupational risk factors. People with occupations requiring prolonged weight-bearing chores have been considered at risk for developing PF.
  • Excessive pronation. People who have low arches or flat feet are thought to be of greater risk for PF.
  • Tumors. Tumors can cause deep bone pain.
  • Injury.  An acute injury such as a heel bruise can be a factor in developing PF.
  • Other diseases. Existing conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis, and /or neurological syndromes may be a factor.

DIET

Drink spring water only. It is best to eliminate refined sugar, white flour products, coffee, alcohol, aspartame, and other inflammatory foods (oranges and some citrus fruits). Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.

an assortment of fruits and vegetables

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Since Plantar Fasciitis is considered a self-limiting condition, the typical time for resolution of this painful syndrome may vary from months to years. This may depend on the skill of the physician and the cooperation of the patient. There are a number of treatment options that do not involve supplementation or drug therapy. Some of the most effective treatments include:

  • Stretching and strengthening.  Designed programs will help correct functional risk factors such as tightness of the Achilles tendon and weakness of the muscles of the foot. Physical therapy may be incorporated.
  • Arch Supports and Orthotics. A skilled podiatrist may effectively treat PF with the proper orthotics. Select well-made, rubber-healed shoes that are comfortable to walk and exercise in.
  • Splinting and Casting. In some cases splinting the foot (at night) can keep the patient’s ankle in a neutral position with the intent of allowing the fascia to heal. A walking cast provides rest for the heel, reduces pressure, and provides support for the Achilles tendon.
  • Surgery. Surgery for PF should be considered only after all other forms of treatment have failed.
  • Magnets. Use of magnet insoles has been an alternative treatment that for many has had astounding success. Placing magnets against the fascia area only at night is believed to bring more blood flow to the area, possibly resulting in enhanced healing time.
  • Acupuncture. This ancient Chinese practice has been proposed as an effective treatment for PF.
  • Shock-wave Therapy. A newer treatment involves using high-pressure sound waves to bombard damaged tissue to relieve pain associated with PF.
  • Oil packs. Use hot linseed oil packs to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Soaking. Soak the foot (feet) in a warm foot bath for 15-20 minutes in the evening. Dissolve 60 grams of MSM powder in the water.

SUPPLEMENT PROTOCOL

  1. NATURAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY HERBS
    These herbs work as COX-2 inhibitors to decrease pain and inflammation associated with heel spurs. They have anti-inflammatory activity which may be useful in decreasing the pain associated with PF and relieving soft tissue injuries. Supplementation with herbals such as BROMELAIN, BOSWELLIA, GINGER, TUMERIC, WHITE WILLOW, and DEVIL’S CLAW should help decrease the need for prescription and OTC non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), thereby relieving potential injury to the stomach lining. Dosage: as directed on package.
  2. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (FISH OIL)
    Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, suppress inflammation production and help decrease pain associated with arthritis. Fish oil will suppress key inflammatory mediators in the body. Dosage: May vary from 1-10 grams a day, depending on severity. Supplementation with fish oil may take 2-6 months to manifest.
  3. MAGNESIUM
    A proper balance of these essential minerals will help prevent abnormal calcium deposition. Magnesium may help relieve pain and relax muscle tension in the area. Magnesium 400-600 mg daily.
  4. ARNICA
    Arnica is a homeopathic remedy available as a topical cream or gel. Arnica sublingual tablets can be taken every few hours to relieve pain and promote healing. Dosage: As directed on package.

Balach, PA, Balch, JF. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third edition. Penguin-Putman, NY. 2000.

Lawrence, RM. A Natural Solution for Athletes. Alive #204, October 1999. P. 11..

Roxas, M. Plantar Fasciitis: Diagnostics and Therapeutic Considerations. Alternative Medicine Review.  June 2005. 10(2): 83-91.

Rona, Z. Medical Advisor, Alive #205, November, 1999. P. 10.

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