Bursitis happens when the bursa is inflamed. The burse acts as a cushion between bones, tendons, joints and muscles, bursae are fluid-filled sacs (the plural of bursa is bursae). People with bursitis will feel pain at the site of inflammation. The medical word “bursa” comes from the Latin bursa, meaning a purse, which is what a bursa resembles.
The most common causes of bursitis are injury or overuse, although infection may also be a cause. Bursitis is also associated with other causes, such as arthritis, gout, tendinitis, diabetes, and thyroid disease.
Pain at the back of the heel, especially with jumping, hopping, tip-toeing, walking or running uphill or on soft surfaces. If tendonitis is also present, the pain can radiate away from the bursa. Direct pressure on the bursa will exacerbate the pain and should be avoided if possible. Tenderness and swelling which might make it difficult to wear certain shoes on the feet. As the bursa becomes more inflamed you will experience swelling and warmth. In severe cases, the bursa will appear as a bump, called a “pump bump”, and is usually red, and extremely tender. Swelling can cause difficulties moving as the range of motion in the ankle can be affected. Limping due to the pain may occur. If you press on both sides of the inflamed heel, there may be a firm spongy feeling. Weakness in the tendons and muscles surrounding the bursa can develop as the pain worsens and the inflammation in the area spreads. Possibly a fever if you are suffering from septic bursitis (You will need to see a doctor for medication to get rid of the infection). Pain at the back of the heel makes it difficult to continue wearing shoes, especially high heels with straps or shoes that don’t fit properly.
Before making a diagnosis of retrocalcaneal bursitis, a doctor must rule out other possible problems, such as arthritis, a fracture or tumor. A doctor also will try to determine if the Achilles tendon itself is a source of pain. To make a diagnosis, a doctor will use some or all of the diagnostic tools below Patient interview. A doctor will ask a patient about medical history, and to describe the onset of his or her symptoms, the pattern of pain and swelling, and how symptoms affect lifestyle. For example, doctors may ask patients what types of shoes they wear and what they do for exercise. A patient’s reported symptoms are important to diagnosis and treatment. The doctor will also ask what home treatments have helped the condition. Physical exam. A doctor will examine the patient’s foot, noting swelling, tenderness and pain points, and range of motion. The doctor also may ask the patient to point and flex the feet and stand on his or her toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
In addition to being aware of foot-wear and inserts, be sure to modify your activity level to reduce the pain initially. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and icing twice a day for 20 minute periods can help reduce the swell that leads to heel pain. Cortisone injections (more powerful anti-inflammatory medications) can be considered if your symptoms are persistent. After the swelling and pain has receded, ask your podiatrist about working with a physical therapist to strengthen the affected area in order to avoid bursitis by using your muscles in a more safe and efficient manner. If all these treatment methods fail, surgery may be the best option to excise a painful bursa (note that this is in rare cases).
Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.