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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have a heel spur – and I’m on medicine for the pain from my doctor. I want to start exercising again. I especially like yoga. Any suggestions?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. is associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is an active teacher in the Internal Medicine Residency Program, serving as the Robinson Firm Chief. He is also a teacher in the Rheumatology Fellowship Program.

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June 14, 2012
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A:

I think you should be able to exercise now despite having a heel spur. But you may need to adjust some of your yoga positions to avoid discomfort. Talk to your yoga instructor about your symptoms and what adjustments you should make. Most yoga is low impact. So I think the risk is low that you’ll make things worse. Start slow and gradually increase your exercise over a number of weeks or months.

The term “heel spur” is not a medical diagnosis. It usually refers to an X-ray in which there is a bit of extra bone (spur) along the bottom or back of the heel bone. Many people have spurs on their X-rays without pain. And many people with heel pain have no spur.

Heel spurs are likely due to repeated tugging or pulling of tendons and ligaments on the bone. It’s not clear why some people develop these spurs (with or without pain). Athletes and others who repeatedly stress the tendons in the ankle and foot may be particularly prone to developing heel spurs.

If you’ve had heel pain (with or without a spur on an X-ray), the most important thing is for you and your doctor to figure out why. The most common causes are:

  • Tendonitis (tendon inflammation), such as Achilles tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the ligaments in the sole of the foot)
  • Certain forms of arthritis
  • Injury to the heel (such as a bone bruise or fracture)

Here are some recommended treatments for common causes of heel pain:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Medicine for pain or inflammation
  • Switching to more cushioned footwear
  • Stretching exercises
  • Shoe inserts (orthotics)

Talk to your doctor about these treatment options. In the meantime, I suggest you keep up with yoga as long as it doesn’t make your symptoms worse.

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