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 of bursitis can be from any form of friction between bone and the soft tissues. The most common cause is due to abnormal pronation.
Symptoms of Achilles bursitis are often mistaken for Achilles tendinitis because of the location of the pain at the back of the heel. When you suffer from Achilles bursitis you will experience some or all of the following symptoms which are most noticeable when you begin activity after resting. High heels can add pressure on the retrocalcaneal bursa, subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, and Achilles tendon.
During the physical examination of a patient with calcaneal bursitis, the physician should keep the following considerations in mind. Swelling and redness of the posterior heel (the pump bump) may be clearly apparent. The inflamed area, which may be slightly warm to the touch, is generally tender to palpation. Careful examination can help the clinician to distinguish whether the inflammation is posterior to the Achilles tendon (within the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa) or anterior to the tendon (within the subtendinous calcaneal bursa). Differentiating Achilles tendinitis/tendinosis from bursitis may be impossible. At times, the 2 conditions co-exist. Isolated subtendinous calcaneal bursitis is characterized by tenderness that is best isolated by palpating just anterior to the medial and lateral edges of the distal Achilles tendon. Conversely, insertional Achilles tendinitis is notable for tenderness that is located slightly more distally, where the Achilles tendon inserts on the posterior calcaneus. A patient with plantar fasciitis has tenderness along the posterior aspect of the sole, but he/she should not have tenderness with palpation of the posterior heel or ankle. A patient with a complete avulsion or rupture of the Achilles tendon demonstrates a palpable defect in the tendon, weakness in plantarflexion, and a positive Thompson test on physical examination. During the Thompson test, the examiner squeezes the calf. The test is negative if this maneuver results in passive plantarflexion of the ankle, which would indicate that the Achilles tendon is at least partially intact.
Non Surgical Treatment
Your GP may prescribe a short course of anti-inflammatory painkillers to reduce and control the painful inflammation that occurs and antibiotics in cases of septic bursitis. Applying a covered ice pack to the area after the initial injury may also significantly hasten the healing process by reducing the pain and swelling. Make sure the ice pack is covered to prevent any ice burn and for best results use the icepack regularly for 10-15 minutes with intervals of 30 minutes. Where possible it is advisable to avoid all aggravating movements and postures, however complete rest is not as this can lead to weakness and further shortening of the muscle. Massage and manipulative therapies can help loosen the surrounding muscles and tendons of the affected joint, reducing the pressure over the bursa and allowing it to heal faster. If the bursitis is chronic and not responding to treatment then your GP may refer you for a corticosteroid injection which will reduce the inflammation levels which will in turn reduce the pain levels experienced. Corticosteroid injections can have varied results. Surgery is a rare option when it comes to bursitis but occasionally it may be necessary for extremely chronic cases or to drain an infected bursa.
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.