In the ankle, 2 bursae are found at the level of insertion of the Achilles tendon. The superficial one is located between the skin and the tendon, and the deep one is located between the calcaneus and the tendon. The latter is the one more commonly affected by bursitis.
Bursitis has many causes, including autoimmune disorders, crystal deposition (gout and pseudogout), infectious diseases, traumatic events, and hemorrhagic disorders, as well as being secondary to overuse. Repetitive injury within the bursa results in local vasodilatation and increased vascular permeability, which stimulate the inflammatory cascade.
The signs and symptoms of heel bursitis can include heel pain wearing particular footwear, Pain or discomfort in the heel when walking, jogging or running, Swelling or inflammation in the heel.
When you suspect you have retrocalcaneal bursitis, your foot doctor will begin by taking a complete history of the condition. A physical exam will also be performed. X-rays are usually taken on the first visit as well to determine the shape of the heel bone, joint alignment in the rearfoot, and to look for calcium deposits in the Achilles tendon. The history, exam and x-rays may sufficient for your foot surgeon to get an idea of the treatment that will be required. In some cases, it may be necessary to get an ultrasound or MRI to further evaluate the Achilles tendon or its associated bursa. While calcium deposits can show up on xray, the inflammation in the tendon and bursa will show up much better on ultrasound and MRI. The results of these tests can usually be explained on the first visit. You can then have a full understanding of how the problem started, what you can do to treat prevent it from getting worse/ You will also know which treatment will be most helpful in making your heel pain go away.
Non Surgical Treatment
You should rest from all activities that cause pain or limping. Use crutches/cane until you can walk without pain or limping. Ice. Place a plastic bag with ice on the foot for 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times a day for the first 24-72 hours. Leave the ice off at least 1 1/2 hours between applications. Compression. Lightly wrap an elastic bandage from the toes to mid calf, using even pressure. Wear this until swelling decreases. Loosen the wrap if your toes start to turn blue or feel cold. Elevate. Make sure to elevate the ankle above heart level. To improve symptoms of plantar calcaneal bursitis after the acute phasetry the baked bean tin stretch, using a baked bean tin roll the foot backwards and forwards. 2 minutes in the morning before putting the foot to the floor. 5-10 minutes every evening. Contrast foot baths. 10 minutes warm water. 10 minutes cool water morning and evening (morning may be missed if time is restricted). Stretches. Start with 10 stretches per day, holding the stretch for 30 seconds, then relax and then repeat. Continue this stretch daily until you can no longer feel it pulling on the heel, then progress to stretch. Do 10 per day holding for 30 seconds per stretch. When you can no longer feel it pulling on the heel proceed to stretches. Do 10 per day holding for 30 seconds on every stretch.
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.