Heel Bursitis is a condition where one of the bursae at the back of the heel becomes swollen, inflamed and painful. A bursa is a fluid filled sac that cushions muscles, tendons and joints. There are 3 main types of bursitis associated with heel bursitis. These include Retro-calcaneal bursitis, Achilles bursitis, and Sub-calcaneal bursitis. The locations of the 3 bursae are: the insertion point of the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel (retro-calcaneal bursa), between the Achilles tendon and the skin at the back of the heel (Achilles bursa), and the bottom of the heel (sub-calcaneal bursa).
Bursitis, tendinitis, and other soft tissue rheumatic syndromes typically result from one or more factors. These include: Play or work activities that cause overuse or injury to the joint areas Incorrect posture Stress on the soft tissues from an abnormal or poorly positioned joint or bone (such as leg length differences or arthritis in a joint) Other diseases or conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriasis, thyroid disease, or an unusual drug reaction) Infection.
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.
Medical examination is not necessarily required in light cases where the tenderness is minimal. In all cases where smooth improvement is not experienced, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible to exclude a (partial) rupture of the Achilles tendon or rupture of the soleus muscle. This situation is best determined by use of ultrasound scanning, as a number of injuries requiring treatment can easily be overlooked during a clinical examination (Ultrasonic image). Ultrasound scanning enables an evaluation of the extent of the change in the tendon, inflammation of the tendon (tendinitis), development of cicatricial tissue (tendinosis), calcification, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tendon (peritendinitis), inflammation of the bursa (bursitis), as well as (partial) rupture.
Non Surgical Treatment
Long Term Treatment must be directed towards eliminating the abnormal tilting of the heel, regardless of its cause. If this is delayed, the usual results are the pain and swelling becomes worse, chronic, and debilitating. Eventually, painful calcifications and bone spur formations may occur on the back of the heel, along with tears in the Achilles Tendon. These are serious problems that may require surgical intervention. In order to eliminate abnormal heel tilt, the foot must be re-balanced. Controlling and reducing the biomechanical foot defects that are causing the heel to tilt best accomplish this. The "Gold Standard" of medical care (that treatment most used by doctors and therapists) to help eliminate pain, inflammation, and swelling at the back of the heel is orthotics.
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.