The most common bursa to be inflamed in the foot is the retrocalcaneal bursa (also referred to as the subtendinous calcaneal bursa). Located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus), this is a "true" bursa that is present from birth. It acts as a cushion to protect the Achilles tendon from friction against the heel bone. Also commonly affected, the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa (also referred to as the Achilles bursa), located between the Achilles tendon and the skin, sits a little lower down the ankle towards the heel than the retrocalcaneal bursa. This bursa develops as you age, an "adventitious" bursa, to protect the tendon from friction at the back of the heel.
Improper foot wear, tight shoes or shoes that do not fit properly can cause extra pressure and friction on the back of the heel. Overtime, this pressure causes irritation of the bursae that protects the Achilles tendon causing one or both to swell and become inflamed. Athletes who overtrain or runners that increase their distance to quickly are at greater risk of experiencing Achilles bursitis. With over use, the Achilles bursae and tendon can become irritated and inflamed leading to thickening of the bursae lining and wearing of the tendon. Fluid builds in the bursa when it becomes irritated causing swelling of the Achilles bursa and pain at the back of the heel.
What are the symptoms of heel bursitis? pain, swelling, tenderness, redness, and/or warmth at either the bottom of the heel or top of the heel, depending on the degree of swelling, pain may be a dull ache or substantial enough to cause limping, running, jumping, and walking activities may exacerbate pain, wearing poorly fitting, tight, or high-heeled shoes may exacerbate pain.
The doctor will discuss your symptoms and visually assess the bones and soft tissue in your foot. If a soft tissue injury is suspected, an MRI will likely be done to view where and how much the damage is in your ankle. An x-ray may be recommended to rule out a bone spur or other foreign body as the cause of your ankle pain. As the subcutaneous bursa is close to the surface of the skin, it is more susceptible to septic, or infectious, bursitis caused by a cut or scrape at the back of the heel. Septic bursitis required antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Your doctor will be able to determine whether there is an infection or not by drawing a small sample of the bursa fluid with a needle.
Non Surgical Treatment
Here are some of the most effective treatments for infracalcaneal bursitis Temporarily avoiding weight-bearing activities that put stress or strain on the heel bone can very helpful in treating infracalcaneal bursitis. PRICE (protection, rest, hot/cold contrast compresses, compression, and elevation) is another good acute management technique for this foot problem. Changing footwear is an effective long-term prevention and treatment tool for infracalcaneal bursitis. Shoes that possess a flat support base from heel to toe, a sufficiently wide toe box to accommodate natural toe splay, and a flexible sole that can be easily bent or twisted are best for preventing and managing infracalcaneal bursitis. An integrated approach to this problem usually involves the use of padded socks or heel cups to help reduce pressure, friction, and inflammation under the heel. Natural anti-inflammatory agents can also be helpful in quelling inflammation, reducing pain, and improving treatment times for infracalcaneal bursitis. In rare cases, more aggressive treatment methods may be required, such as cortisone injections or surgery to drain the bursal sac. Always consult your physician before beginning any healthcare regimen designed to treat infracalcaneal bursitis.
Once your pain and inflammation is gone, you can prevent retrocalcaneal bursitis deformity by wearing the best shoes for your foot type. You should high-heels and pumps if possible. Wear orthotics (custom arch supports) or over-the-counter orthotic devices. Perform frequent Achilles tendon stretching exercises to prevent it from becoming tight agian. Avoiding running uphill when training. Try to run on softer surfaces and avoid concrete.