Bursae (two or more bursa) are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles surrounding your joints. They contain a lubricating fluid that reduces friction, allowing tissues in the body to glide past each other smoothly. Imagine the bursa as a protective layer that helps keep a tendon or muscle from fraying or getting aggravated as it eases over a bone or around a corner. Bursitis is a condition that occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed: irritated, red and filled with more fluid than normal.
Pain at the posterior heel or ankle is most commonly caused by pathology at either the posterior calcaneus (at the calcaneal insertion site of the Achilles tendon) or at its associated bursae. Two bursae are located just superior to the insertion of the Achilles (calcaneal) tendon. Anterior or deep to the tendon is the retrocalcaneal (subtendinous) bursa, which is located between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus. Posterior or superficial to the Achilles tendon is the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, also called the Achilles bursa. This bursa is located between the skin and posterior aspect of the distal Achilles tendon. Inflammation of either or both of these bursa can cause pain at the posterior heel and ankle region.
Pain in the heel, especially with walking, running, or when the area is touched. Pain may get worse when rising on the toes (standing on tiptoes). Red, warm skin over the back of the heel.
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist may be all that is necessary to diagnose a retrocalcaneal bursitis. Diagnosis may be confirmed with an ultrasound investigation, MRI or CT scan.
Non Surgical Treatment
Medications may be used to reduce the inflammation and pain of retrocalcaneal bursitis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen can be purchased without a prescription and used to treat mild to moderate pain. These drugs are often used in combination with a physical therapy program or other retrocalcaneal bursitis treatments.
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.
You can avoid the situation all together if you stop activity as soon as you see, and feel, the signs. Many runners attempt to push through pain, but ignoring symptoms only leads to more problems. It?s better to take some time off right away than to end up taking far more time off later. Runners aren?t the only ones at risk. The condition can happen to any type of athlete of any age. For all you women out there who love to wear high-heels-you?re at a greater risk as well. Plus, anyone whose shoes are too tight can end up with calcaneal bursitis, so make sure your footwear fits. If the outside of your heel and ankle hurts, calcaneal bursitis could be to blame. Get it checked out.