Bursitis occurs when a bursa is irritated from frequent pressure and it becomes inflamed. Due to the location close the Achilles tendon, Achilles bursitis is often mistaken for tendinitis. Achilles bursitis is a common overuse injury in runners, ice skaters and other athletes.
A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion and a lubricant between tendons and muscles sliding over bone. There are bursas around most large joints in the body, including the ankle. The retrocalcaneal bursa is located in the back of the ankle by the heel, where the large Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus). Repetitive or over use of the ankle, for instance by doing excessive walking, running or jumping, can cause this bursa to become irritated and inflamed. This condition is commonly associated with Achilles tendonitis. Sometimes retrocalcaneal bursitis may be mistaken for achilles tendonitis. Those at risk for this condition include people just starting aggressive exercise regimens or having some other sudden increase in activity without proper conditioning.
Pain at the back of the heel at the attachment site of the Achilles tendon when running. Pain on palpation of the back of the heel or bottom of heel. Pain when standing on tiptoes. Swelling and redness at the back and bottom of the heel.
When a patient has pain in a joint, a careful physical examination is needed to determine what type of movement is affected and if there is any swelling present. Bursitis will not show up on x-rays, although sometimes there are also calcium deposits in the joint that can be seen. Inserting a thin needle into the affected bursa and removing (aspirating) some of the synovial fluid for examination can confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, the fluid will not be clear. It can be tested for the presence of microorganisms, which would indicate an infection, and crystals, which could indicate gout. In instances where the diagnosis is difficult, a local anesthetic (a drug that numbs the area) is injected into the painful spot. If the discomfort stops temporarily, then bursitis is probably the correct diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
If you follow these steps, most attacks of bursitis should subside in four or five days and all symptoms should be gone within two weeks. Rest the body part that hurts. If you suspect that one activity has caused the pain, stop it until the pain is entirely gone. A sling, splint, or padding may be needed to protect the area from possible bumps or irritation. Try over-the-counter pain relievers. Nonprescription NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) will help reduce pain and swelling, though they won?t accelerate healing. Acetaminophen will help with pain but it doesn?t reduce inflammation. Ice it, then heat it. Apply ice packs during the first two days to bring down swelling. Then use heat-warm baths or a heating pad (on a medium or low setting)-to ease pain and stimulate blood flow. Don?t push it. Resume exercising only after you feel better. Start with gentle activity. Skip the liniments. Liniments and balms are no help for bursitis. Liniments don?t penetrate deeply enough to treat bursitis, they mainly warm the skin and make it tingle, thus distracting attention from the pain beneath. Massage is likely to make matters worse. Undergo physical therapy. Physical therapy strengthens joint muscles that have been affected by bursitis and may help prevent the bursitis from getting worse.
Surgery is rarely need to treat most of these conditions. A patient with a soft tissue rheumatic syndrome may need surgery, however, if problems persist and other treatment methods do not help symptoms.
Do not run if you have pain. When you begin running again, avoid running fast uphill or downhill until the tendon is fully healed. Start exercising when caregivers say that it is OK. Slowly start exercise such as bicycling when caregivers say it is OK. When doing exercises that put pressure on the ankles, such as running or walking, exercise on flat, even surfaces. Avoid doing these exercises on very hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. Stretch before exercising. Always warm up your muscles and stretch gently before exercising. Do cool down exercises when you are finished. This will loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your heel. Wear heel protectors. Use soft foam or felt heel pads (wedges or cups) to help decrease pressure against your heel. Ask your caregiver which heel pads are the best for you. Wear well-fitting shoes. Buy running or exercise shoes that support and fit your feet well. Do not wear low-cut shoes. Talk to your caregiver or go to a special exercise footwear store to get well-fitting athletic shoes. Ask your caregiver if you should wear specially-made shoe inserts called orthotics (or-THOT-iks). Orthotics can line up your feet in your shoes to help you run, walk and exercise correctly.