Friday, December 6, 2013

How does the lack of calcium cause bone spurs?

When I first heard I had a bone spur in my heel, the doctor told me it was a lack of calcium that caused them.  When I told other people that, they laughed at me.  Things don't GROW on your body when you LACK other things, silly girl.  So, then I thought maybe I misunderstood and bone spurs were from EXTRA calcium, so I did a little research.  

As many of you know, I had surgery to deal with my bone spur.  I am at four months out.  There has been little change since my three-month update.  My "good" foot hurts almost daily and my "bad" foot doesn't hurt much but is still swollen.  I am back to working out five to six days a week.  I have again recently confirmed with my doctor that bone spurs are from a lack of calcium, not an abundance of it.  So I decided to do a little more research (and by "research," I just mean I "Googled" it) to find out how bone spurs are formed.

Ice and rest after over-doing it
My assumption was that bone spurs were caused when calcium was somehow leeched out of the bones and then re-deposited when it had nowhere else to go.  I don't believe that is fully true, but the truth may not be so far from that.  Here is one explanation

"A heel spur is a hook of bone that forms on the heel bone, an X-ray will show a point of bone protruding from the bottom of the foot at the point where the plantar fascia is attached to the heel bone. The heel spur itself is not thought to be the primary cause of pain, rather inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia is thought to be the primary problem cause by the tearing of the micro ligamentous tissue from the heal bone. The heel spur then forms because the body is trying to heal itself and has calcium deficiency. After the heel spur is formed and stress is placed on the plantar fascia from walking the heel spur just adds to the irritation and inflammation."

More interesting information:

"Researchers located the root cause. They found that calcium deposits are most common in women aged 35 to 65 – the group most prone to osteoporosis. Knowing that osteoporosis is primarily caused by calcium and mineral deficiency, they realized that two conditions share one cause.  Calcium and minerals are needed for every vital function of your body, from the pumping of your heart to cell division to DNA replication. If you’re not ingesting enough calcium to fuel these functions, your body robs your bones! This survival mechanism is the acknowledged root of osteoporosis, and now we know it causes bone spurs, too."

"Bone spurs are your body's cry for calcium and minerals. Ignore it – and you may become a prime candidate for osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and more than 160 other degenerative diseases related to mineral deficiencies!" 

Information about absorption of calcium (and I don't know how to adjust for gastric bypass patients, but I assume we absorb even less):

The exercises and stretches help a lot
"Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, but it may also be severely lacking. The amount of calcium that we absorb from our food varies widely. One factor that affects this is age. An adolescent may absorb up to 75% of the calcium obtained from foods, while in adults the maximum absorption rate ranges from 20% to 30%. Even though our bones feel solid and seem permanent, they're just like any other body tissue - they're constantly being broken down and formed again. In an adult, 20% of bone calcium is withdrawn from bones and replaced each year. Thus, every five years the bones are renewed."

So there you go.  Bone spurs are most definitely caused by a lack of calcium, AND it appears that I may be at higher risk for osteoporosis.  I get blood tests every year and I don't believe my labs have come back showing I was lacking in calcium, so I'm not sure if the test is flawed or if my body needs more calcium than the average person.  That's a whole other issue I'm not prepared to deal with.  I remember being told not to "worry" about osteoporosis because fat people don't get it....frail old white ladies get it (I believe I was told this by my previous (two doctors ago) tiny Asian lady doctor, who gave me bad medical advice on many, many occasions).  Apparently all the weight my body bears just walking around on a daily basis is literally saving it from ever getting osteoporosis.  I'm not really sure that's actually true, although perhaps it is somewhat more helpful than being tiny.  

It does seem like the exercising I am doing is probably the best thing I can do for myself.  Yoga, spin and pole appear to be great exercises for strengthening the body and the bones.   

What old wives' tales were you told that you believed, just because you didn't know better?  How did you find out it might be wrong? 


  1. One of the interesting things I learned about calcium in the body this semester: 99% of calcium in the body is stored in your bones, the other 1% is what's available to use. If you do not get your 1000mg/d, the body quickly uses up all of the 1%, and starts "stealing" calcium from your bones. Because we have such a small amount available for use, it doesn't take much time before your body starts breaking down bones if you're not refilling the supply every single day. And since the body only absorbs about 30% of the calcium in food products, it takes A LOT to keep up an adequate intake.

    I started taking calcium supplements after that lecture.

    1. I do take daily calcium supplements. Most likely, whatever caused this bone spur happened long ago, right after surgery. My labs have been fine and my calcium hasn't been low, so hopefully everything is working properly now. I also take calcium citrate because calcium carbonate doesn't work for gastric bypass patients. I don't know if that is the case for regular people. I also take D and Magnesium to help with absorption. It's all very scary though!!

  2. And yes, more body weight means that for every single step that you take, you are putting more stress on your bones, which does make them stronger. Still I'm not sure if that's enough to make up for a lack of calcium in your diet, if that is the case. Do a google image search for "bones with osteoporosis", it's kind of scary..