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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have heel spurs. The pain is under control, but I worry about this getting worse. What causes heel spurs? Is it caused by ingesting too much calcium? How about a vitamin deficiency?
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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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December 27, 2011
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A:

A heel spur is an x-ray finding in which there is a bit of extra bone (spur) along the bottom or back of the heel bone. But a heel spur is not really a disease. Many people have spurs on their x-rays without pain. And many people with heel pain have no spur!

Heel spurs are likely caused by 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). They seem to be more common in athletes and others who repeatedly stress the tendons in the ankle and foot.

Heel spurs are not caused by calcium intake or a vitamin deficiency.

If you’ve had heel pain (with or without a spur on 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)

Your doctor will likely recommend these treatments:

  • Foot rest
  • Ice
  • Medicine for pain and inflammation
  • A change to more cushioned footwear.

Stretching exercises and shoe inserts (orthotics) can also help.

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