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.
Inflammation of the bursa causes synovial cells to multiply and thereby increases collagen formation and fluid production. A more permeable capillary membrane allows entrance of high protein fluid. The bursal lining may be replaced by granulation tissue followed by fibrous tissue. The bursa becomes filled with fluid, which is often rich in fibrin, and the fluid can become hemorrhagic. One study suggests that this process may be mediated by cytokines, metalloproteases, and cyclooxygenases.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is very similar to Achilles bursitis as the bursae are very close in proximity and symptoms are almost identical however retrocalcaneal bursitis is a lot more common. The symptoms of bursitis vary depending on whether the bursitis is the result of injury or an underlying health condition or from infection. From normal overuse and injury the pain is normally a constant dull ache or burning pain at the back of the heel that is aggravated by any touch, pressure like tight shoes or movement of the joint. There will normally be notable swelling around the back of the heel. In other cases where the bursa lies deep under the skin in the hip or shoulder, swelling might not be visible. Movement of the ankle and foot will be stiff, especially in the mornings and after any activity involving the elbow. All of these symptoms are experienced with septic bursitis with the addition of a high temperature of 38?C or over and feverish chills. The skin around the affected joint will also appear to be red and will feel incredibly warm to the touch. In cases of septic bursitis it is important that you seek medical attention. With injury induced bursitis if symptoms are still persisting after 2 weeks then report to your GP.
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
Other than rest, once the diagnosis of heel bursitis (Achilles bursitis, Retrocalcaneal bursitis) has been confirmed then your treating doctor will either generally recommend one or more of the following, Pain killers. Non steroid anti-inflammatory medication. A cortisone steroid injection. Surgery in extreme cases. Whilst the above may be beneficial for some people, others unfortunately will not be suitable for such heel bursitis treatments. This may be for several reasons such as having already tried these medications with little to no benefit or not being able to take these type of medications due to pre-existing medical conditions or alternatively some individuals may just prefer to avoid painful injections or strong medications and instead use a natural heel bursitis treatment.
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.