Bursitis (ber-SEYE-tis) is swelling and pain of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion or shock absorber between a tendon and a bone. A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects muscles to bones. Normally a bursa has a small amount of fluid in it. When injured, the bursa becomes inflamed (red and sore) and may fill with too much fluid. Achilles (ah-KIL-eez) tendon bursitis is a type of ankle bursitis when the bursa between the Achilles tendon and the heel becomes inflamed. You may have Achilles bursitis and tendonitis (inflamed tendon) at the same time.
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.
Patients with this condition typically experience pain at the back of the ankle and heel where the Achilles tendon attaches into the heel bone. Pain is typically experienced during activities requiring strong or repetitive calf contractions (often involving end of range ankle movements) such as walking (especially uphill), going up and down stairs, running, jumping or hopping (especially whilst wearing excessively tight shoes). Often pain may be worse with rest after these activities (especially that night or the following morning). The pain associated with this condition may 'warm up' with activity in the initial stages of injury. As the condition progresses, patients may experience symptoms that increase during sport or activity, affecting performance. In severe cases, patients may walk with a limp or be unable to weight bear on the affected leg. Other symptoms may include tenderness on firmly touching the affected bursa and swelling around the Achilles region.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may demonstrate bursal inflammation, but this modality probably does not offer much more information than that found by careful physical examination. Theoretically, MRI could help the physician to determine whether the inflammation is within the subcutaneous bursa, the subtendinous bursa, or even within the tendon itself, however, such testing is generally not necessary. Ultrasonography may be a potentially useful tool for diagnosing pathologies of the Achilles tendon.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment is primarily comprised of relief from the painful activity (running). It is important that shoes do not pinch the heel. If satisfactory progress is not made during the rehabilitation, medical treatment can be considered in the form of rheumatic medicine (NSAID) or injection of corticosteroid in the bursa. Injections should be performed under ultrasound guidance to ensure optimal effect and reduce the risk of injecting into the Achilles itself. If progress is not made neither through rehabilitation nor medicinal treatment, surgical treatment can be attempted.
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.
Continue to wear your orthotics for work and exercise to provide stability and restore foot function. Select suitable shoes for work and physical activity that provide stability for the heel. Regular stretching of the calf muscle can prevent heel bursitis. Do not suddenly increase activity amount without appropriate conditioning.