Swelling and inflammation near a joint may be a sign of bursitis, a condition that involves buildup of liquid and inflammation in a bursa sac that cushions a joint. This condition has earned some interesting names over the years: housemaid?s knee, student?s elbow, and tailor?s bottom, to name a few. Simply put, bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa and buildup of fluid in the bursa sac. A bursa is a thin, slippery sac found around a joint that serves to reduce friction between bone and surrounding soft tissue, such as skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons. A bursa sac is made up of a synovial membrane, or synovium, that produces and contains synovial fluid. Excessive friction, a trauma, or other condition can irritate the synovium and cause it to become inflamed. The inflamed synovium will thicken and produce excess synovial fluid, and can cause symptoms such as localized swelling, skin redness and warmth, tenderness and pain. Of the approximately 160 bursae in the body, only a handful of them usually cause bursitis. These usual suspects are found in the knee, shoulder, elbow, and hip. Less frequently, bursitis may also occur in the heel, wrist, buttocks and big toe.
The inflammation of a bursa can result from any process that irritates or compresses it. The irritation causes the affected bursa to produce too much fluid and swell. In cases of traumatic injury, injured capillaries can leak blood into the bursa and cause it to swell.
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).
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist may be all that is necessary to diagnose a retrocalcaneal bursitis. Diagnosis may be confirmed with an ultrasound investigation, MRI or CT scan.
Non Surgical Treatment
Most patients with achilles and retrocalcaneal bursitis heal well with appropriate physiotherapy and other usual bursitis conventional and natural cures being administered. Specific treatments for ankle / heel bursitis may include footwear correction. Get well-fitting, soft-backed (or even open-backed whenever possible) shoes for both day to day wear and exercise. High-heels should really be a no no or worn sparingly, ladies. Heel protectors. Heel pads and heel lifts are great simple solutions to cushion and protect the Achilles area from the irritation of the shoes. Orthotics. There are various orthotic devices out there (some only available over-the-counter). One example is a custom arch suppport. These can control abnormal motion in your feet by lining them up correctly in your shoes to help you move in the right matter so the bursitis heals faster and does not return back again. Exercise modification Stretch your heel, mainly Achilles tendon, frequently, particularly before and after excercise or prolonged sitting. If you are a jogger, try to run on softer surfaces (no hard concrete, please). Running uphill training is best to be avoided by Achilles and retrocalcaneal bursitis sufferers.
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.