Bone spurs are caused by extra bone growth and can exist for years without ever causing any symptoms. In these cases, no treatment is required. However, they can also rub on nearby tissues, nerves and muscles and cause pain and swelling. If a bone spur forms near the Achilles tendon -- at the back of your ankle -- it can cause pain with various movements. Treatment for this condition ranges from rest to surgery, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
If a bone spur near the Achilles tendon rubs on nearby tissues, it can lead to bursitis in the heel area. This condition usually affects the retrocalcaneal bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac located near the heel, where the calf muscle attaches to the heel bone. The first step of treatment is to reduce inflammation. This includes resting, applying ice, compressing or wrapping the area, and elevating the foot -- the RICE treatment. Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed if swelling is severe. It is not usually recommended to inject steroids into this area because they may weaken the Achilles tendon and cause it to rupture.
Alterations to Shoes
Overuse or overtraining can stress the Achilles tendon and the heel bone. As these areas weaken, bone spurs may form in an attempt to strengthen the heel bone. To help manage symptoms, it may be necessary to make adjustments to footwear. This can include wearing extra padding in the shoes, using a heel cup to elevate the heel or changing the type of shoe worn. In addition, a podiatrist can evaluate walking patterns and examine your arches. Orthotics to correct any problems can be designed to take pressure off of the heel and Achilles tendon.
A physical therapist can design a strengthening program for the muscles around the Achilles tendon. This will help to take pressure off the tendon. A gentle stretching program should also be developed to keep the area flexible and less prone to injury. It may also be helpful to have a trainer or coach review training techniques and make suggestions to avoid overuse and improper training principles that may be contributing to this condition. The goal is to remain active while reducing the amount of wear and tear on the heel and Achilles tendon.
When conservative measures fail to relieve symptoms, surgery may be necessary. After the symptoms become chronic, it may be necessary to remove the bone spur and then reattach the Achilles tendon. Because this area has poor blood supply, recovery from this operation can take up to three months. After this period, physical therapy may be required, and it can take up to one or two years to return to presurgery levels of activity. The best bet is to seek treatment as soon as symptoms appear to prevent this condition from worsening and becoming chronic.