In your heel, there is a sac filled with fluid known as a bursa. It is located under your Achilles tendon at the back of your heel bone. Many of your large joints have a bursa around them. They provide cushioning and lubrication for the tendons, muscles and bone. Bursitis of the heel occurs when the bursa in your ankle becomes swollen.
Overusing your calves, ankles and heels during inappropriate or excessive training or doing repetitive motions for prolonged periods of time can contribute to the development of the this painful ankle Achilles and retrocalcaneal bursitis aliment. Bursitis in this part of the body often occurs in professional or recreational athletes. Walking, running and jumping can do some damage. (I loved to skip rope before I suffered my severe hip bursitis.). Injury. This condition may also develop following trauma such as a direct, hard hit to your heel. Footwear. Poorly fitting shoes that are too tight, too large or have heels can all cause excessive pressure or friction over the bursa in the heel. Infection. Medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, sometimes lead to bursitis. It is not unusual to have Achilles bursitis and tendonitis (inflamed tendon) at the same time. Ankle bursitis is often a genetic condition where you simply inherited a foot type, for example a heel bone with a prominence, high arch or tight Achilles tendon, that is more prone to the mechanical irritation that leads to the bursitis. Muscle weakness, joint stiffness and poor flexibility (particularly of the calf muscles) are certainly contributing factors too.
Pain and tenderness usually develop slowly over time. Applying pressure to the back of the heel can cause pain. Wearing shoes may become uncomfortable. The back of the heel may feel achy. Pain is exacerbated when the foot is pointed or flexed, because the swollen bursa can get squeezed. A person with retrocalcaneal bursitis may feel pain when standing on their toes. Fever or chills in addition to other bursitis symptoms can be a sign of septic bursitis. Though uncommon, septic retrocalcaneal bursitis is a serious condition, and patients should seek medical care to ensure the infection does not spread.
Diagnosis of heel bursitis can be made by your health practitioner and is based on the following. Assessing the location of the pain by palpating the back of the heel. Assessment of any inflammation at the back of the heel. Assessment of biomechanics and foot function. Ultrasound or MRI can reveal inflammation of the retro calcaneal bursa.
Non Surgical Treatment
With anterior and posterior Achilles tendon bursitis, applying warm or cool compresses to the area and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can temporarily relieve the pain and inflammation, as can injections of a corticosteroid/anesthetic mixture into the inflamed bursa. The doctor is careful not to inject the mixture into the tendon. After this treatment, the person should rest. When these treatments are not effective, part of the heel bone may need to be surgically removed.
Only if non-surgical attempts at treatment fail, will it make sense to consider surgery. Surgery for retrocalcanel bursitis can include many different procedures. Some of these include removal of the bursa, removing any excess bone at the back of the heel (calcaneal exostectomy), and occasionally detachment and re-attachment of the Achilles tendon. If the foot structure and shape of the heel bone is a primary cause of the bursitis, surgery to re-align the heel bone (calcaneal osteotomy) may be considered. Regardless of which exact surgery is planned, the goal is always to decrease pain and correct the deformity. The idea is to get you back to the activities that you really enjoy. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the exact surgical procedure that is most likely to correct the problem in your case. But if you have to have surgery, you can work together to develop a plan that will help assure success.
Maintain proper form when exercising, good flexibility, and strength around the ankle to help prevent this condition from arising. Proper stretching of the achilles tendon helps prevent injury.