Coexistence of plantar calcaneal spurs and plantar fascial thickening in individuals with plantar heel pain

Hylton B Menz, Martin J Thomas, Michelle Marshall, Trishna Rathod-Mistry, Alison Hall, Linda S Chesterton, George M Peat, Edward Roddy
Rheumatology 2019 February 1, 58 (2): 237-245

Objectives: To examine associations between plantar calcaneal spurs, plantar fascia thickening and plantar heel pain (PHP), and to determine whether tenderness on palpation of the heel differentiates between these presentations.

Methods: Adults aged ⩾50 years registered with four general practices were mailed a Health Survey. Responders reporting foot pain within the last 12 months underwent a detailed clinical assessment. PHP in the past month was documented using a foot manikin. Plantar calcaneal spurs were identified from weight-bearing lateral radiographs and plantar fascia thickening (defined as >4 mm) from ultrasound. Tenderness on palpation of the plantar fascia insertion was documented. Associations between these factors and PHP were explored using generalized estimating equations.

Results: Clinical and radiographic data were available from 530 participants (296 women, mean [s.d.] age 64.9 [8.4] years), 117 (22.1%) of whom reported PHP. Plantar calcaneal spurs and plantar fascia thickening were identified in 281 (26.5%) and 501 (47.3%) feet, respectively, but frequently coexisted (n = 217, 20.4%). Isolated plantar calcaneal spurs were rare (n = 64, 6.0%). Participants with PHP were more likely to have a combination of these features compared with those without PHP (odds ratio 2.16, 95% CI 1.24, 3.77, P = 0.007). Tenderness on palpation of the heel was not associated with plantar calcaneal spurs or plantar fascia thickening, either in isolation or in combination, in those with PHP.

Conclusion: Plantar calcaneal spurs and plantar fascial thickening are associated with PHP, but frequently coexist. Tenderness on palpation of the heel does not appear to differentiate between clinical presentations of PHP.

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