Every action has a reaction. If you ask your mom 117 times a day if you can get a new iPhone, the chances are good she’ll lash out at you at #118 – or sooner. And just as you can rub your mom the wrong way, you can unintentionally rub the bones of your feet the wrong way. Repeated actions on foot bones can cause them to lash out in the form of bone spurs.

What are bone spurs?

Bone spurs are outgrowths of bone that can form anywhere on the foot or ankle, but most often in the heel and toes. Think of them as bony projections – new pieces of bone that stick out from the normal bone. Bone spurs form as a result of

  • osteoarthritis – when protective cartilage wears down in the joints, causing bones to rub against each other
  • constant pressure from tight footwear
  • uneven foot mechanics
  • high arches
  • obesity
  • repeated high-impact activities like running and jumping
  • a genetic tendency to develop them

A bone spur isn’t always a bad thing. You may not even know you have one. However, bone spurs sometimes poke into surrounding soft tissues. Nerve pain, joint pain, the inability to bend the base of your big toe, and plantar fasciitis can all be caused or made worse by a bone spur.

Symptoms of bone spurs include

  • redness
  • swelling
  • stiffness
  • dull ache
  • acute pain
  • difficulty moving a joint

You can relieve the pain and swelling related to bone spurs with over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Custom orthotics are great for taking the pressure off the problem area. Rest, steroid injections, and physical therapy are other effective treatments. Surgery to remove the extra bone or replace an entire joint is also possible.

Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center is a board-certified podiatrist who is well-qualified to determine if the pain in your heels, toes, foot, or ankles is related to spurs and what to do about it. Make an appointment with Dr. Wilhelm at our Fairfax County podiatry office in Centreville, Virginia: call (703) 996-3000 or contact us online.

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