Lumps and bumps. We see a lot of them in our Elmhurst podiatry practice. Sometimes, they form because of a previous injury that caused your foot to develop extra bone tissue, which we call a bone spur. But most of the time, an extra spur of bone develops because of excess pressure or strain from a mechanical variant in your foot.
Two of the most common spots for bumps are on TOP of the big toe joint and on the BACK of your heel. When bumps hit the toe joint, it's typically because abnormal mechanics in your foot are jamming your joint as you walk or run. Of course sometimes, the extra bone develops after a traumatic toe jam, but this process is usually progressive, and also often associated with a loss of cartilage in your joint. Which means that, if we remove this bump, you might find temporary relief. But it might not last long, because that abnormality in your foot structure would start the growth process all over again.
And we face similar issues when it comes to the bone spur that develops on the back of the heel. This growth is also due to abnormal strain in your foot. The Achilles tendon attaches to the back of your heel, so when it's tight, it pulls on your heel and causes this strain. Sometimes, especially in very active individuals, the bone grows a spur that embeds within the tendon. In order to remove the spur in this case, we'd actually have to move your tendon away from the bone to correct the issue. So, now you know why removing bone spurs isn't a simple 'cut' and dry process. So let's take a look at how we handle this condition.
How We Treat Bone Spurs
As we explained, bone spurs (osteophytes) are bumps that grow along the edge of your bone, often near your joints. In their early stages, bone spurs usually won't cause you pain. But when they get larger, they may cause pain and stiffness, especially if they start approaching your nerves.
Fortunately, we can help you prevent bone spurs (or at least keep them from getting larger) with some simple, non-invasive treatment options. Ideally, these methods will prevent your spurs from developing to a size where you're in pain and require surgery to find relief. Let's start with the easiest option:
1. Lose weight
One big reason you develop bone spurs on your heels? Your body weight is putting too much pressure on the area. For this reason, dropping pounds and maintaining a healthy weight is a very effective treatment for bone spurs.
2. Switch Your Shoes
If your shoes are too tight or too loose, you increase your risk of developing bone spurs. Why? Either fit issue can place undue pressure on certain areas of your body causing spurs to develop over time. So how do you find the Goldilocks (just right) shoe fit? Make sure to get measured, in-store, before every shoe purchase, then look for these features in any pair you select:
Support – If you have a spur on your heel, choose shoes with extra padding in the back. Memory foam cushioning can also help shoes mold to your feet, helping with fit and taking the impact pressure of walks or runs off your bones.
Comfort – Your shoes should feel good the very first time you wear them, without a 'breaking in' period. If they don't create comfort the very first time, they aren't the pair for you. Move on!
3. Try medication
While we can't give you any medications that will reduce the actual size of your bony bump, we can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs that will reduce the swelling of the skin around bump. You may also need to take over-the-counter medications to help with pain management.
4. Physical Therapy
If bone spurs on your joints have affected your range of motion, physical therapy can help you relearn the proper way to walk. Of course this treatment, like the others, will help you find relief from symptoms. And it may prevent further spur growth, but it won't get rid of the bump you already have.
If you've tried our other treatment plans, and your bone spurs are still impacting your life, you may need surgery. Just remember: our goal is more than to simply remove the bumps. We must also correct the mechanical conditions or other areas of pressure that caused you to develop a problem in the first place. In this way, we can be sure that once your bump is gone, it won't be coming back again to bug you!