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.
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.
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
If you follow these steps, most attacks of bursitis should subside in four or five days and all symptoms should be gone within two weeks. Rest the body part that hurts. If you suspect that one activity has caused the pain, stop it until the pain is entirely gone. A sling, splint, or padding may be needed to protect the area from possible bumps or irritation. Try over-the-counter pain relievers. Nonprescription NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) will help reduce pain and swelling, though they won?t accelerate healing. Acetaminophen will help with pain but it doesn?t reduce inflammation. Ice it, then heat it. Apply ice packs during the first two days to bring down swelling. Then use heat-warm baths or a heating pad (on a medium or low setting)-to ease pain and stimulate blood flow. Don?t push it. Resume exercising only after you feel better. Start with gentle activity. Skip the liniments. Liniments and balms are no help for bursitis. Liniments don?t penetrate deeply enough to treat bursitis, they mainly warm the skin and make it tingle, thus distracting attention from the pain beneath. Massage is likely to make matters worse. Undergo physical therapy. Physical therapy strengthens joint muscles that have been affected by bursitis and may help prevent the bursitis from getting worse.
Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be performed in extreme cases. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, then additional treatment is needed. Septic bursitis is caused by the presence of a pus-forming organism, usually staphylococcus aureus. This is confirmed by examining a sample of the fluid in the bursa and requires treatment with antibiotics taken by mouth, injected into a muscle or into a vein (intravenously). The bursa will also need to be drained by needle two or three times over the first week of treatment. When a patient has such a serious infection, there may be underlying causes. There could be undiscovered diabetes, or an inefficient immune system caused by human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).
After taking a history and performing a physical examination, your physician may order x-rays to rule out other disorders. Your doctor may administer injections of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic to reduce swelling and ease pain. Also, to reduce swelling, your physician may draw excess fluid from the bursa with a syringe and then tightly wrap and compress the joint with an elastic bandage. In severe, persistent cases surgery to remove the bursa may be necessary. For infectious bursitis, antibiotics will be prescribed.