Heel bursitis is specifically the inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa, located at the back of the heel, under the Achilles tendon. There are a handful of factors that put you at risk for developing heel bursitis. Long distance runners are prone to heel bursitis, due to repeated stress and pounding upon the heel joint. Engaging in activities such as running, bicycling, walking, jumping, and stair climbing for extended periods of time can overwork the heel joints and start to irritate the bursae. Suddenly changing to a high-intensity workout regime puts a lot of stress on the heel, making it vulnerable to injury. Hard blows/bumps to the heel can immediately damage the bursae, leading to swelling and inflammation. Training at high intensities without stretching and warming up can also contribute to the development of heel bursitis. Even improper footwear can be a big factor. Some other conditions can put you at risk as well, such as: tarsal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, plantar fasciitis, muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and heel spurs. It is very important to get a professional diagnosis if you are having heel pain because heel bursitis is often confused for Achilles tendonitis, and the proper treatments are very different. The pain could also be plantar fasciitis or general heel pain syndrome.
Bursitis can develop for several reasons, including repetitively engaging in the same motion, or example, lifting objects above your head for work. Putting a lot of pressure on a bursa for an extended period of time. Leaning on your elbows or kneeling (for example, to lay carpet) can cause bursitis in the elbows or knees. If you sit for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces, you may develop bursitis in your hip. Wearing shoes with a stiff back that rubs against the back of the ankle can cause Achilles tendon bursitis. Trauma. The bursae at the knee and elbow are close to the surface of the skin, and if you fall directly on your elbow or the knee, you can rupture, injure or puncture a bursa. Infection. Known as septic bursitis, it?s the result of bacteria infecting a bursa. It can occur from an infection traveling from another site or following an accident that ruptures the bursa. Even scraping the skin on your elbow or getting a mosquito bite that breaks the skin near the olecranon bursa (near the elbow) can lead to bursitis. Other joint disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout, or health conditions.
Limping. Decreased movement. Your ankles may feel stiff or unable to move as well as they usually do. Pain or tenderness in the back of the ankle. It may be worse at the beginning of exercise, or when running uphill. You may also have pain when wearing shoes. Redness and warmth. If the bursa is infected, the skin over the heel may be red and warm. You may also have a fever. Swelling on the back of the heel.
Your doctor will examine you, including an evaluation of your gait, while you are barefoot, your doctor will ask you to stand still and to walk in order to evaluate how your foot moves as you walk. An examination of your feet. Your doctor may compare your feet for any differences between them. Then your doctor may examine your painful foot for signs of tenderness, swelling, discoloration, muscle weakness and decreased range of motion. A neurological examination. The nerves and muscles may be evaluated by checking strength, sensation and reflexes. In addition to examining you, your health care professional may want to examine your shoes. Signs of excessive wear in certain parts of a shoe can provide valuable clues to problems in the way you walk and poor bone alignment. Depending on the results of your physical examination, you may need foot X-rays or other diagnostic tests.
Non Surgical Treatment
Physiotherapy treatment is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and reduce the likelihood of injury recurrence in all patients with retrocalcaneal bursitis. Treatment may comprise soft tissue massage (particularly to the calf muscles), joint mobilization (of the ankle, subtalar joint and foot), dry needling, electrotherapy (e.g. ultrasound), stretches, the use of heel wedges, the use of crutches, ice or heat treatment, arch support taping, the use of a compression bandage, exercises to improve strength, flexibility, balance and core stability, education, anti-inflammatory advice, activity modification advice, biomechanical correction (e.g. the use of orthotics), footwear advice, a gradual return to activity program.
Surgery. Though rare, particularly challenging cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis might warrant a bursectomy, in which the troublesome bursa is removed from the back of the ankle. Surgery can be effective, but operating on this boney area can cause complications, such as trouble with skin healing at the incision site. In addition to removing the bursa, a doctor may use the surgery to treat another condition associated with the retrocalcaneal bursitis. For example, a surgeon may remove a sliver of bone from the back of the heel to alter foot mechanics and reduce future friction. Any bone spurs located where the Achilles attaches to the heel may also be removed. Regardless of the conservative treatment that is provided, it is important to wait until all pain and swelling around the back of the heel is gone before resuming activities. This may take several weeks. Once symptoms are gone, a patient may make a gradual return to his or her activity level before their bursitis symptoms began. Returning to activities that cause friction or stress on the bursa before it is healed will likely cause bursitis symptoms to flare up again.
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.