A lesser known type of heel pain is a condition called Bursitis of the Heel. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions the muscles, tendons and bones in our joints. It helps keep them from rubbing against each other and reduces friction in the areas around the joints. Bursitis is Latin for inflammation of the bursa. Repeated movement and pressure on the bursa can cause it to swell and become inflamed. Trauma, infection or crystal deposits can also cause Bursitis. The joints that are usually affected by bursitis are the large joints such as the shoulder, hip and knee but in some cases also the back of the heel.
Bursitis is commonly caused by overuse and repeated movements. These can include daily activities such as using tools, gardening, cooking, cleaning, and typing at a keyboard. Long periods of pressure on an area. For example, carpet layers, roofers, or gardeners who work on their knees all day can develop bursitis over the kneecap. Aging, which can cause the bursa to break down over time. Sudden injury, such as a blow to the elbow. Bursitis can also be caused by other problems, such as arthritis or infection (septic bursitis).
Symptoms of Achilles bursitis are often mistaken for Achilles tendinitis because of the location of the pain at the back of the heel. When you suffer from Achilles bursitis you will experience some or all of the following symptoms which are most noticeable when you begin activity after resting. High heels can add pressure on the retrocalcaneal bursa, subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, and Achilles tendon.
If heel pain has not responded to home treatment, X-rays may be ordered. These images can show deformities of the heel bone and bone spurs that have developed at the attachment of the Achilles. If there is swelling and/or pain that is slightly higher and within the Achilles tendon itself, an MRI may be ordered to determine if the tendon is simply inflamed or if there is a chronic tear on the tendon. Aspiration and lab tests. If a septic bursitis is highly suspected, a doctor may perform an aspiration, removing fluid from the bursa with a needle and syringe. In addition to relieving pressure and making the patient more comfortable, it provides a fluid sample that can be tested for infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Physical therapy is also used to treat retrocalcaneal bursitis. People with this condition may be instructed to use ice on the heel and ankle several times each day. Ice should be applied for periods of 15 to 20 minutes. Prolonged use of ice is not recommended because it can stop blood flow if left in place for a long period of time. Exercises and stretches for the Achilles tendon can help to relieve some of the pressure on the bursae below the tendons. If physical activity must be limited due to a flare-up of this condition, other exercises can be done to maintain fitness. They include water aerobics and swimming.
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.
After taking a history and performing a physical examination, your physician may order x-rays to rule out other disorders. Your doctor may administer injections of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic to reduce swelling and ease pain. Also, to reduce swelling, your physician may draw excess fluid from the bursa with a syringe and then tightly wrap and compress the joint with an elastic bandage. In severe, persistent cases surgery to remove the bursa may be necessary. For infectious bursitis, antibiotics will be prescribed.