Achilles tendon bursitis, or retrocalcaneal bursitis, can affect anyone, but is typically a foot condition in athletes, especially runners. Because of similar symptoms, this condition is often confused with Achilles tendinitis. At times, bursitis of the Achilles tendon can occur in conjunction with Achilles tendinitis. When both conditions are present, it is referred to as Haglund's syndrome. If you are a runner and are experiencing pain in your lower leg and heel area, you may be suffering from Achilles tendon bursitis. Proper treatment of the condition can help relieve the pain and allow your leg to heal.
Inflammation of the calcaneal bursae is most commonly caused by repetitive overuse and cumulative trauma, as seen in runners wearing tight-fitting shoes. Such bursitis may also be associated with conditions such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and seronegative spondyloarthropathies. In some cases, subtendinous calcaneal bursitis is caused by bursal impingement between the Achilles tendon and an excessively prominent posterior superior aspect of a calcaneus that has been affected by Haglund deformity.
Bursitis usually causes a dull pain, tenderness, and stiffness near the affected bursa. The bursa may swell and make the skin around it red and warm to the touch. Bursitis is most common in the shoulder camera.gif, elbow camera.gif, hip camera.gif, and knee camera.gif. Bursitis may also occur near the Achilles tendon or in the foot. Symptoms of bursitis may be like those of tendinopathy. Both occur in the tissues in and around the joints. Check with your doctor if your pain is severe, if the sore area becomes very hot or red, or if you have a fever.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for bursitis may include the following. X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. Ultrasound. A diagnostic technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs. Aspiration. A procedure that involves removal of fluid from the swollen bursa to exclude infection or gout as causes of bursitis. Blood tests. Lab tests that are done to confirm or eliminate other conditions.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are a variety of treatments for bursitis of the heel. Bursitis on the bottom of your heel (which is called infracalcaneal bursitis) is common in heels with thinning fat pads. Gel heel cushions or custom made orthotics (that have a horse-shoe cut and extra foam in the heel) can be lifesavers in reducing the pain. For bursitis of the posterior heel (retrocalcaneal bursitis), try to avoid going barefoot and to reduce the stress on the Achilles tendon by not over flexing your heel, the tighter your Achilles becomes, the more you compress the bursa sacs of the posterior heel. Heel lifts can help this, or wearing shoes with elevated heels (note that this method is not sanctioning high heels, as high heels can provide little comfort or support and usually are tight in the areas where your bursitis is most inflamed). Products such as AirHeel made by Aircast can help massage the bottom and back of the heel, helping to decrease pain.
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.
People can lower the risk of bursitis by gradually strengthening and stretching the muscles around the joints and taking regular breaks from repetitive motion that might irritate bursae. Prolonged time resting on the elbows or kneeling should be avoided, if it cannot be avoided, wearing cushioned elbow and knee pads can help protect the bursae. Comfortable, supportive, low-heeled shoes can help prevent bursitis in the foot.