Bursitis is defined as inflammation of a bursa. Humans have approximately 160 bursae. These are saclike structures between skin and bone or between tendons, ligaments, and bone. The bursae are lined by synovial tissue, which produces fluid that lubricates and reduces friction between these structures.
The retrocalcaneal bursa can become inflamed as the result of another condition, such as damage to the Achilles tendon, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and pseudogout. In these instances, the treatment for bursitis must accompany treatment for the underlying condition. Septic retrocalcaneal bursitis, which is caused by an infection, is uncommon. Infection can reach the bursa through a cut, puncture, a blister, or even an insect bite. It is possible to have septic bursitis without an obvious opening. In these cases the superficial wound may have healed quickly, but still allowed bacteria into the bursa.
Symptoms of bursitis usually occur after rest and relaxation. Upon activity there is usually more intense pain in the area of the bursa. The common areas to have a bursitis in the foot are in the bottom of the heel, behind the heel near the attachment of the Achilles Tendon as well as along the side of a bunion. A bursa may also form in multiple areas especially along the metatarsal heads, or "ball" of your foot. You may actually feel the sac like fluid when rubbing the area of pain.
When you suspect you have retrocalcaneal bursitis, your foot doctor will begin by taking a complete history of the condition. A physical exam will also be performed. X-rays are usually taken on the first visit as well to determine the shape of the heel bone, joint alignment in the rearfoot, and to look for calcium deposits in the Achilles tendon. The history, exam and x-rays may sufficient for your foot surgeon to get an idea of the treatment that will be required. In some cases, it may be necessary to get an ultrasound or MRI to further evaluate the Achilles tendon or its associated bursa. While calcium deposits can show up on xray, the inflammation in the tendon and bursa will show up much better on ultrasound and MRI. The results of these tests can usually be explained on the first visit. You can then have a full understanding of how the problem started, what you can do to treat prevent it from getting worse/ You will also know which treatment will be most helpful in making your heel pain go away.
Non Surgical Treatment
Most patients with achilles and retrocalcaneal bursitis heal well with appropriate physiotherapy and other usual bursitis conventional and natural cures being administered. Specific treatments for ankle / heel bursitis may include footwear correction. Get well-fitting, soft-backed (or even open-backed whenever possible) shoes for both day to day wear and exercise. High-heels should really be a no no or worn sparingly, ladies. Heel protectors. Heel pads and heel lifts are great simple solutions to cushion and protect the Achilles area from the irritation of the shoes. Orthotics. There are various orthotic devices out there (some only available over-the-counter). One example is a custom arch suppport. These can control abnormal motion in your feet by lining them up correctly in your shoes to help you move in the right matter so the bursitis heals faster and does not return back again. Exercise modification Stretch your heel, mainly Achilles tendon, frequently, particularly before and after excercise or prolonged sitting. If you are a jogger, try to run on softer surfaces (no hard concrete, please). Running uphill training is best to be avoided by Achilles and retrocalcaneal bursitis sufferers.
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.