Overview

Heel bursitis is also known as retrocalcaneal bursitis. The heel bone is called calcaneus, and the bursa associated with the heel bone is located in the area between the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. When this particular bursa gets aggravated due to constant pressure in the ankle, the posterior end of the heel or the area behind the heel gets inflamed and hence the result is retrocalcaneal bursitis. Strain to the ankles could be caused due to various reasons like extraneous jogging, skipping, or such physical activities that increase the pressure on the ankles.

Causes

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.

Symptoms

Unlike Achilles tendinitis, which tends to manifest itself slightly higher on the lower leg, Achilles tendon bursitis usually creates pain and irritation at the back of the heel. Possible signs of bursitis of the Achilles tendon include difficulty to rise on toes. Standing on your toes or wearing high heels may increase the heel pain. Inflammation and tenderness. The skin around your heel can become swollen and warm to the touch. Redness may be visible. Pain in the heel. Pain tends to become more prominent when walking, running, or touching the inflamed area. Stiffness. The back of your ankle may feel a little stiff due to the swelling of the bursa.

Diagnosis

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

Gradual and progressive stretching of the Achilles tendon. Exercises to strengthen and support the ankle. Rest or reduced weight bearing activities. Immobilisation in a cast for 4-6 weeks for severe cases. Ice. Proper fitting and supportive footwear. Massage. Joint mobilisation. Anti-inflammatory medications: only if this does not have adverse results with the patient’s current medication. Heel pads and heel lifts. Footwear Advice. Strapping and padding Orthoses/innersoles. The orthotics prescribed and designed by the podiatrists at the Heel and Arch Pain Clinic (affiliated with Beyond Podiatry) are made to align the foot in the correct posture. Surgery is indicated in severe cases when conservative treatment has not resolved the problem.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.

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