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).
Bursitis occurs when the bursae become irritated or infected, often causing pain on movement. When infection is involved, medical intervention is necessary to fight the underlying infection and prevent it from spreading, when infection is not involved, prompt medical attention can prevent the condition from becoming worse over time.
You might have Retrocalcaneal Bursitis if you notice any of the following symptoms. You have pain or tenderness at the back of the heel where the Achille's tendon attaches. Have swelling near the attachment of the tendon to the heel bone. You have noticed a slowly growing bump on the back of the heel. The back of the heel turns red after getting rubbed in shoes. The back of the heel hurts worse when you run, walk up hill or wear high heels.
Your doctor will take a history to find out if you have the symptoms of retrocalcaneal bursitis. By examining your ankle, he or she can generally tell the location of the pain. The physician will look for tenderness and redness in the back of the heel. The pain may be worse when the doctor bends the ankle upward (dorsiflex), as this may tighten the achilles tendon over the inflamed bursa. Alternatively, the pain may be worse with toe rise, as this puts stress on the attachment of the achilles tendon to the heel bone. Imaging studies such as X-ray and MRI are not usually necessary at first. If initial treatment fails to improve the symptoms, these studies may be obtained. MRI may show inflammation.
Non Surgical Treatment
One of the most effective treatments for infracalcaneal bursitis is to temporarily avoid weight-bearing activities that put stress or strain on your heel bone. PRICE (protection, rest, hot/cold contrast compresses, compression, and elevation) is another good acute management technique for this foot problem. Changing your footwear is an effective long-term prevention and treatment tool for infracalcaneal bursitis. Footwear that possess a flat support base, a sufficiently wide toe box to accommodate natural toe splay, and a flexible sole are best for preventing and managing infracalcaneal bursitis. An integrated approach to this problem usually involves the use of padded socks that help reduce pressure, friction, and inflammation in your affected area. Natural anti-inflammatory agents can also be helpful in quelling inflammation, reducing pain, and improving treatment times for infracalcaneal bursitis. In rare cases, more aggressive treatment methods may be required, such as cortisone injections or surgery to drain the bursal sac.
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.