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Heel Spur Surgery: Purpose, Procedure, Recovery 


If you have sharp pain when taking your first steps in the morning or consistent aching in your heel throughout the day, a heel spur may be the culprit. 

While many people find relief with conservative treatments, sometimes surgery is the best path to finally getting rid of that stubborn heel pain.

In this blog, we will discuss heel spur surgery—why surgery may be necessary, what happens during the procedure, and the recovery.

What is a heel spur?

A heel spur is a small, bony growth that develops on the underside of your heel bone. It is essentially a buildup of calcium that forms a pointed, hook-like protrusion on the heel bone. 

Heel spurs don’t often cause any symptoms. The pain people experience usually comes from related conditions, most often plantar fasciitis. Other symptoms that a patient with heel spur may experience include:

  • Dull ache
  • Pain that worsens during activity
  • Inflammation, redness, and warmth in the affected area.
  • Small visible bump

Additionally, heel spurs develop due to chronic stress and strain on the plantar fascia ligament and muscles in the foot. 

So, if you’re experiencing heel pain, always consult an orthopedic doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and discuss proper treatment options.

When to consider heel spur surgery?

Most people with heel spurs won’t require surgery. Conservative treatments like rest, ice, stretching exercises, over-the-counter pain relievers, and custom orthotics usually provide significant relief. 

However, if these methods fail to bring improvement after several months, your doctor may suggest exploring surgery. Here are some factors that may indicate that surgery may be the best option for you:

  • Severe, persistent pain: Surgery may become necessary if the pain significantly impacts daily activities and quality of life.
  • Limited mobility: When heel spurs cause trouble walking or standing for extended periods, it may be time to consider surgery.
  • Co-existing plantar fasciitis: Heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament). Surgery may address both.
  • Ineffective treatment: If a dedicated trial of conservative options (typically 6-12 months) doesn’t work, surgery offers a potential solution.

What happens during a heel spur surgery?

The primary purpose of heel spur surgery is to relieve chronic, debilitating heel pain that hasn’t responded to conservative treatments. 

There are two types of heel spur surgery:

  1. Open surgery

This involves a larger incision, allowing the surgeon to directly visualize and remove the heel spur. It may also involve releasing part of the plantar fascia ligament.

  1. Endoscopic surgery 

Smaller incisions are used, and a tiny camera helps the surgeon guide the procedure. The benefits include less postoperative pain and quicker recovery.

Heel spur surgery is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning you return home the same day. You’ll receive either general anesthesia to put you to sleep or regional anesthesia to numb your leg and foot. 

The surgeon will then use the chosen method (open or endoscopic) to remove the heel spur and potentially release part of the plantar fascia.

What can you expect after the procedure?

Here’s a general timeline and play-by-play of what you can expect after the surgery:

Immediately after surgery

You’ll likely experience some pain and swelling following the procedure. Pain medications and at-home care with the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) will be crucial. 

Your doctor may provide a surgical boot or cast to keep your foot immobilized. Your surgeon will also provide detailed instructions on caring for the surgical wound and changing dressings to prevent infection.

Recovery timeline

Recovery will vary somewhat depending on the individual and the type of surgery, but here’s a general timeline:

  • First few weeks: You’ll mostly focus on rest, elevation, pain management, and wound care. You’ll gradually be able to bear more weight on the heel as directed by your doctor.
  • 1-3 months: Swelling should subside, and pain will continue to decrease. You may still require a walking boot. Physical therapy is often started during this phase.
  • 3-6 months: Most individuals experience significant improvement by this time, and most activities can be resumed. Full recovery may take longer for some.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in recovery for most patients after heel spur surgery. A therapist will design a program including:

  • Range of motion exercises: To improve ankle flexibility and reduce stiffness
  • Strengthening: Exercises targeted at the foot, ankle, and calf muscles to restore strength and stability
  • Gait training: Helping you re-establish a normal walking pattern
  • Pain management techniques: Including stretches and massage that can reduce discomfort

Restrictions during recovery

Your surgeon will provide personalized instructions, but here are some common restrictions:

  • Weight-bearing: You’ll initially be non-weight-bearing, progressing to partial weight-bearing in a boot or with mobility aids.
  • Activities: High-impact activities like running and jumping will be off-limits for several months.
  • Driving: You won’t be able to drive while wearing a boot or using crutches.
  • Work: Depending on your job, you may need time off work or have restrictions on activities if your job involves a lot of standing.

It’s essential to follow your surgeon’s instructions closely for optimal healing and avoiding complications. Open communication with your care team and reporting any new pain or concerns will make the recovery process smoother.

Life after heel spur surgery

Heel spur surgery has a high success rate. Most patients see a significant reduction in pain and improved function. It’s important to follow your doctor’s post-op instructions carefully for the best results.

Experience World-Class Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic Surgery Center

At Raleigh Orthopaedic Surgery Center, we place your healing and peace of mind at the forefront of everything we do. 

Our board-certified Raleigh orthopedic surgeons possess unparalleled expertise in the latest orthopedic surgical techniques. They are highly skilled in various procedures, guaranteeing your surgery is in the very best hands.

Raleigh Orthopaedic Surgery Center is the largest and most modern ambulatory surgery facility in Eastern North Carolina, specializing exclusively in orthopedics. 

For more information, our outpatient orthopedic clinic can be reached at 919-719-3070.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.