Heel Bursitis is a condition where one of the bursae at the back of the heel becomes swollen, inflamed and painful. A bursa is a fluid filled sac that cushions muscles, tendons and joints. There are 3 main types of bursitis associated with heel bursitis. These include Retro-calcaneal bursitis, Achilles bursitis, and Sub-calcaneal bursitis. The locations of the 3 bursae are: the insertion point of the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel (retro-calcaneal bursa), between the Achilles tendon and the skin at the back of the heel (Achilles bursa), and the bottom of the heel (sub-calcaneal bursa).
Overusing your calves, ankles and heels during inappropriate or excessive training or doing repetitive motions for prolonged periods of time can contribute to the development of the this painful ankle Achilles and retrocalcaneal bursitis aliment. Bursitis in this part of the body often occurs in professional or recreational athletes. Walking, running and jumping can do some damage. (I loved to skip rope before I suffered my severe hip bursitis.). Injury. This condition may also develop following trauma such as a direct, hard hit to your heel. Footwear. Poorly fitting shoes that are too tight, too large or have heels can all cause excessive pressure or friction over the bursa in the heel. Infection. Medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, sometimes lead to bursitis. It is not unusual to have Achilles bursitis and tendonitis (inflamed tendon) at the same time. Ankle bursitis is often a genetic condition where you simply inherited a foot type, for example a heel bone with a prominence, high arch or tight Achilles tendon, that is more prone to the mechanical irritation that leads to the bursitis. Muscle weakness, joint stiffness and poor flexibility (particularly of the calf muscles) are certainly contributing factors too.
Pain at the back of the heel, especially with jumping, hopping, tip-toeing, walking or running uphill or on soft surfaces. If tendonitis is also present, the pain can radiate away from the bursa. Direct pressure on the bursa will exacerbate the pain and should be avoided if possible. Tenderness and swelling which might make it difficult to wear certain shoes on the feet. As the bursa becomes more inflamed you will experience swelling and warmth. In severe cases, the bursa will appear as a bump, called a “pump bump”, and is usually red, and extremely tender. Swelling can cause difficulties moving as the range of motion in the ankle can be affected. Limping due to the pain may occur. If you press on both sides of the inflamed heel, there may be a firm spongy feeling. Weakness in the tendons and muscles surrounding the bursa can develop as the pain worsens and the inflammation in the area spreads. Possibly a fever if you are suffering from septic bursitis (You will need to see a doctor for medication to get rid of the infection). Pain at the back of the heel makes it difficult to continue wearing shoes, especially high heels with straps or shoes that don’t fit properly.
Before making a diagnosis of retrocalcaneal bursitis, a doctor must rule out other possible problems, such as arthritis, a fracture or tumor. A doctor also will try to determine if the Achilles tendon itself is a source of pain. To make a diagnosis, a doctor will use some or all of the diagnostic tools below Patient interview. A doctor will ask a patient about medical history, and to describe the onset of his or her symptoms, the pattern of pain and swelling, and how symptoms affect lifestyle. For example, doctors may ask patients what types of shoes they wear and what they do for exercise. A patient’s reported symptoms are important to diagnosis and treatment. The doctor will also ask what home treatments have helped the condition. Physical exam. A doctor will examine the patient’s foot, noting swelling, tenderness and pain points, and range of motion. The doctor also may ask the patient to point and flex the feet and stand on his or her toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis can be resolved with self-care that is focused on reducing inflammation and eliminating activities or positions that aggravate the bursa. Some cases, however, may become more serious and require more medical interventions. Rarely, surgery is needed. Following the R.I.C.E. formula, or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, is often sufficient to treat aseptic bursitis. Rest. People with retrocalcaneal bursitis should avoid activities that irritate the bursa, such as jogging or excessive walking. Ice. Applying a cold compress to the back of the ankle for about 20 minutes two or three times a day may help alleviate symptoms and decrease swelling. Compression. An elastic medical bandage (e.g. Ace? bandage) wrapped around the affected heel and ankle can help control swelling. Elevating the affected heel. Sitting down with the leg elevated on a stool or lying down with the foot elevated on a pillow can help reduce blood flow to the area, thereby reducing inflammation.
Surgery. Though rare, particularly challenging cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis might warrant a bursectomy, in which the troublesome bursa is removed from the back of the ankle. Surgery can be effective, but operating on this boney area can cause complications, such as trouble with skin healing at the incision site. In addition to removing the bursa, a doctor may use the surgery to treat another condition associated with the retrocalcaneal bursitis. For example, a surgeon may remove a sliver of bone from the back of the heel to alter foot mechanics and reduce future friction. Any bone spurs located where the Achilles attaches to the heel may also be removed. Regardless of the conservative treatment that is provided, it is important to wait until all pain and swelling around the back of the heel is gone before resuming activities. This may take several weeks. Once symptoms are gone, a patient may make a gradual return to his or her activity level before their bursitis symptoms began. Returning to activities that cause friction or stress on the bursa before it is healed will likely cause bursitis symptoms to flare up again.