Retrocalcaneal Bursitis. This bursa is located at the back of the heel. Bursitis in this area is often associated with conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis or rheumatoid arthritis. It can occur in healthy individuals who wear improperly fitted shoes. Symptoms include painful swelling that develops at the back of the heel. Calcaneal Bursitis. This bursa is located at the sole or bottom of the heel. Inflammation usually produces pain in the heel when standing. Causes include heel spurs, excess weight, injury, and wearing improperly fitted shoes.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis can be caused through injury or infection or be can be triggered by certain health conditions. If bursitis develops as a result of injury then it will normally be due to a repetitive strenuous activity that encourages the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle), which attach to the heel bone via the Achilles tendon, to tighten and shorten from overuse, for example repetitively wearing high heels, running and even wearing tight shoes that pinch at the back of the heel. This puts more pressure over the bursa as the tendon rubs more tightly over it, irritating it and triggering a painful inflammatory reaction (swelling). This risk of developing bursitis in this way is greater for those whose jobs or hobbies involve a lot of repetitive movements, for example carpet fitters and gardeners who spend a lot of time kneeling and so are more at risk of bursitis in the knee. Runners have a greater likelihood of developing bursitis in the hip. Bursitis can also be brought on by excessive pressure or direct impact trauma, such as banging your elbow or dropping on to your knees. Infection is a less common cause of bursitis and normally only occurs in people who have a weakened immune system from other health issues. The infection can work its way to the bursa from a cut close to the bursa that has become infected, in these cases the bursitis is termed as septic bursitis. Certain health conditions can also trigger the development of bursitis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, amongst others.
Medical experts strongly recommend that you consult a doctor if you have any of the symptoms below. Disabling joint pain that prevents you from doing your daily activities. Pain that lasts for more than two weeks. Excessive swelling, redness, bruising or a rash around the painful joint. Sharp or shooting pain, especially when you exercise or do something more strenuous. A fever. Any of the above could be a sign of infection, a condition such as arthritis or a more serious injury such as a tendon tear that may require medical attention.
If heel pain has not responded to home treatment, X-rays may be ordered. These images can show deformities of the heel bone and bone spurs that have developed at the attachment of the Achilles. If there is swelling and/or pain that is slightly higher and within the Achilles tendon itself, an MRI may be ordered to determine if the tendon is simply inflamed or if there is a chronic tear on the tendon. Aspiration and lab tests. If a septic bursitis is highly suspected, a doctor may perform an aspiration, removing fluid from the bursa with a needle and syringe. In addition to relieving pressure and making the patient more comfortable, it provides a fluid sample that can be tested for infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment includes the use of shoe supports (either a heel raise or a donut-shaped heel cushion) and a limited number of local corticosteroid injections (usually up to three per year). Changing the type of footwear may be essential.
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.