People suffering from heel bursitis may experience pain and tenderness around the affected soft tissue, pain that worsens with movement or pressure, and visible swelling or skin redness in the area of the inflamed bursa at the back of the heel, which may restrict movement and affect your daily activities. Bursitis is in the heel area is also called Retrocalcaneal Bursitis or Calcaneal Bursitis. The calf comprises of two major muscle groups, both of which insert into the heel bone via the Achilles Tendons. Between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone lies a bursa known as the retrocalcaneal bursa. During contraction of the calf, tension is placed through the Achilles tendon and this rubs against the retrocalcaneal bursa. Treatment of Bursitis is similar to the treatment options for normal heel pain, in particular ice, anti-inflammatories, exercises and orthotics can be beneficial for heel bursitis.
The following are some of the more common causes for heel bursitis. Overuse (common in runners and athletes). Running with the wrong footwear. A sudden impact to the foot. Repetitive stress. Underlying inflammatory condition (such as osteoarthritis).
Pain or tenderness at the back of the heel around the Achilles region. Increased pain during activities with strong, repetitive calf contractions, walking (uphill), stair climbing, running, jumping. Pain may be worse with rest after activity (that night or the next morning) or at the beginning of the excercise. Pain when wearing shoes and the heel is getting rubbed. Bump forming on the back of the heel. Limping. Stiffness. Decreased range of motion. Redness and warmth (if the bursa gets infected).
When a patient has pain in a joint, a careful physical examination is needed to determine what type of movement is affected and if there is any swelling present. Bursitis will not show up on x-rays, although sometimes there are also calcium deposits in the joint that can be seen. Inserting a thin needle into the affected bursa and removing (aspirating) some of the synovial fluid for examination can confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, the fluid will not be clear. It can be tested for the presence of microorganisms, which would indicate an infection, and crystals, which could indicate gout. In instances where the diagnosis is difficult, a local anesthetic (a drug that numbs the area) is injected into the painful spot. If the discomfort stops temporarily, then bursitis is probably the correct diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
In some cases, physicians may recommend drugs or medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drugs) to manage pain and inflammation. Alternative medications like cortisone injections are NOT advised for any type of Achilles Tendon injury or condition. This is because there is an increased risk of rupture of the tendon following a cortisone injection. Medical evidence shows that cortisone shots can damage the surrounding tissue, fray the Achilles tendon, and even trigger a rupture. Most side effects are temporary, but skin weakening (atrophy) and lightening of the skin (depigmentation) can be permanent.
Only if non-surgical attempts at treatment fail, will it make sense to consider surgery. Surgery for retrocalcanel bursitis can include many different procedures. Some of these include removal of the bursa, removing any excess bone at the back of the heel (calcaneal exostectomy), and occasionally detachment and re-attachment of the Achilles tendon. If the foot structure and shape of the heel bone is a primary cause of the bursitis, surgery to re-align the heel bone (calcaneal osteotomy) may be considered. Regardless of which exact surgery is planned, the goal is always to decrease pain and correct the deformity. The idea is to get you back to the activities that you really enjoy. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the exact surgical procedure that is most likely to correct the problem in your case. But if you have to have surgery, you can work together to develop a plan that will help assure success.
You may be able to prevent bursitis from happening or coming back. Continue your home treatment with rest, ice, pain relievers, and gentle exercises. When you are ready to try the activity that caused the pain, start slowly and do it for short periods or at a slower speed. Warm up before and stretch after the activity. Increase your activity slowly, and stop if it hurts. Use ice afterward to prevent pain and swelling. Change the way you do activities with repeated movements that may strain your muscles or joints. For example if using a certain tool has caused bursitis, start switching hands or change the grip size of your tool. If sitting for long periods has caused bursitis, get up and walk around every hour. If a certain sport is causing bursitis, consider taking lessons to learn proper techniques. Have an expert check your equipment to make sure it’s well suited to your size, strength, and ability. If certain activities at work may be causing bursitis, talk to your human resources department about other ways of doing your job, equipment changes, or other job assignments. Protect your joints from pressure. Cushion knees or elbows on hard surfaces, and wear shoes that fit you well and have good support.