Heel bursitis is a common foot pain in athletes, and is often mistaken for Achilles tendinitis, although it can also occur together with Achilles tendinitis. Heel bursitis occurs when small cushions in the heel called bursas become inflamed and swell with fluid irritating surrounding tissue and pressing on nerves. Other names given to heel bursitis are Achilles bursitis and Retrocalcaneal bursitis.
Bursitis occurs when the synovial lining becomes thickened and produces excessive fluid, leading to localized swelling and pain. It most commonly affects the subacromial, olecranon, trochanteric, prepatellar, and infrapatellar bursae. Symptoms of bursitis may include localized tenderness, pain, edema, erythema, or reduced movement. Pain is aggravated by movement of the specific joint, tendon, or both.
Symptoms of bursitis usually occur after rest and relaxation. Upon activity there is usually more intense pain in the area of the bursa. The common areas to have a bursitis in the foot are in the bottom of the heel, behind the heel near the attachment of the Achilles Tendon as well as along the side of a bunion. A bursa may also form in multiple areas especially along the metatarsal heads, or "ball" of your foot. You may actually feel the sac like fluid when rubbing the area of pain.
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 not properly treated, a case of bursitis can turn into chronic bursitis, flaring up on and off for several weeks or longer. Bursitis treatment involves resting the joint, often combined with other methods to alleviate swelling, including NSAIDs (e.g. Aleve, ibuprofen), icing the joint, elevating the joint, and wrapping the joint in an elastic bandage. Cases of septic bursitis must also be treated with antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body or into the bloodstream.
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).
Maintain proper form when exercising, as well as good flexibility and strength around the ankle to help prevent this condition. Proper stretching of the Achilles tendon helps prevent injury.
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