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.
There are several factors which can lead to a person developing retrocalcaneal bursitis. In athletes, especially runners, overtraining, sudden excessive increase in running mileage may lead to
retrocalcaneal bursitis. Tight or ill-fitting shoes can be another causative factor as they can produce excessive pressure at the back of the heel due to restrictive heel counter. A person with an
excessively prominent posterosuperior aspect of the heel bone (Haglund deformity) may also have a higher predisposition to retrocalcaneal bursitis. In such individuals, pain would be reproduced when
the ankle goes into dorsiflexion.
When the bursa becomes inflamed after an injury, symptoms usually develop suddenly. When the bursa develops without an injury, symptoms may develop gradually. With both posterior and anterior
Achilles tendon bursitis, symptoms usually include swelling and warmth at the back of the heel. A minimally red, swollen, tender spot develops on the back of the heel. When the inflamed bursa
enlarges, it appears as a red lump under the skin of the heel and causes pain at and above the heel. If posterior Achilles tendon bursitis becomes chronic, the swelling may become hard, fluid-filled,
and red or flesh-colored.
Careful examination by your physician or physiotherapist can determine if the inflammation is from the Achilles tendon or from the retrocalcaneal bursa. Tenderness due to insertional Achilles
tendinitis is normally located slightly more distal where the tendon inserts into the back of the heel, whereas tenderness caused by the retrocalcaneal bursa is normally palpable at the sides of the
distal Achilles tendon. Diagnosis can be confirmed with an ultrasound investigation, MRI or CT scan.
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment of bursitis is usually effective. The application of heat, rest, and immobilization of the affected joint area is the first step. A sling can be used for a shoulder injury, a
cane is helpful for hip problems. The patient can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofin, and naproxen. They can be obtained without a prescription and relieve the
pain and inflammation. Once the pain decreases, exercises of the affected area can begin. If the nearby muscles have become weak because of the disease or prolonged immobility, then exercises to
build strength and improve movement are best. A doctor or physical therapist can prescribe an effective regimen. If the bursitis is related to an inflammatory condition like arthritis or gout, then
management of that disease is needed to control the bursitis. When bursitis does not respond to conservative treatment, an injection into the joint of a long-acting corticosteroid preparation, like
prednisone, can bring immediate and lasting relief. A corticosteroid is a hormonal substance that is the most effective drug for reducing inflammation. The drug is mixed with a local anesthetic and
works on the joint within five minutes. Usually one injection is all that is needed.
Bursectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove an inflamed or infected bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tissues of the body. Because retrocalcaneal bursitis can
cause chronic inflammation, pain and discomfort, bursectomy may be used as a treatment for the condition when it is persistent and cannot be relived with other treatments. During this procedure, a
surgeon makes small incisions so that a camera may be inserted into the joint. This camera is called an arthroscope. Another small incision is made so that surgical instruments can be inserted to
remove the inflamed bursa.