If you notice that your feet have been aching more than usual lately, it could be time to get them checked out. You might be certain they are heel spurs, only to find out weeks later that it was actually plantar fasciitis. This is a common mistake, and while they are completely separate conditions, one could be forgiven for getting the two mixed up.
Being able to identify the correct condition is important if you hope to properly treat it and you’ll need to see a podiatrist or a foot specialist to confirm a diagnosis. Before your appointment, it’s good to know what the main differences between heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are.
Surface Level Differences
At first glance, the untrained eye may not be able to notice much of a difference between the two ailments. However, there are some important surface-level differences that distinguish them from one another. For starters, heel spurs are essentially bone growths that form along the heel as calcium deposits build up. On the other hand, plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia—a ligament that connects from the heel to the front of your foot—becomes inflamed and painful, which can happen when too much strain and pressure is applied to the foot. If you’re unfamiliar with these differences, it can be easy to confuse one for the other.
The Causes of a Heel Spur Versus Plantar Fasciitis
The root cause of a heel spur versus plantar fasciitis is a great way to identify each condition, as the way each one forms may be dependent upon your consistent activity. As stated, heel spurs form when calcium is deposited in the heel and it builds up, resulting in a rounded spur on the heel. The body makes these deposits when damage has occurred on the heel bone and it acts to shield it. At times, the spurs can go unnoticed by a person, but other times the painful symptoms will follow, which can be eased with ice, insoles, and proper stretching, but not completely erased unless surgery is performed.
Because the ligament associated with plantar fasciitis essentially acts as impact absorption, this damage can occur during sports, weight training, or overuse of lighter exercises, like walking. The ligament is used constantly, and when one overworks it through excessive jumping, running, or any other movement that causes an immense amount of strain over time, that ligament can tear. Luckily, this can usually be corrected with a good bit of rest and additional minor treatments, like applying ice, delicate stretching, and wearing splints.
The Symptoms: Heel Spur Versus Plantar Fasciitis
At their most fundamental level, both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis cause heel pain, which is why making the distinction between them can prove difficult. However, each condition is accompanied by its own set of symptoms that can help give you a better idea of your specific affliction. Those with heel spurs often suffer from a tender heel that can make it challenging to walk without receiving a shot of pain through their heel. The heel itself typically becomes swollen and painful, which can lead to both dull aches throughout the day and sharp pains when attempting to perform physical activities.
Plantar fasciitis is very similar in terms of symptoms, with stabbing pain near the hill and even along the bottom of the foot towards the ball of your feet. Because the ligament itself is the root cause of the problem and not the heel, you may notice more intense pain after doing some sort of physical activity, because the ligament has been worked when inflamed. Normally stretching itself would not cause much pain if you were suffering from a heel spur, but stretching an inflamed plantar fascia will be noticeable.
Not all heel pain is created equal, and knowing whether your discomfort is being caused by a heel spur or plantar fasciitis can help you seek the remedy you need to begin living a normal life. Want to know more about heel spurs or plantar fasciitis and what your possible treatment options are? Northwest Surgery Center is here to help. Our medically trained team of professionals can diagnose and treat whatever heel affliction you might have.