Infracalcaneal bursitis (inflammation of the bursa below the calcaneus, or heel bone) is one of the most common types of bursitis in the foot. Infracalcaneal bursitis can sometimes be difficult to differentiate from plantar fasciosis-another condition that causes pain below the heel. The key difference is that infracalcaneal bursitis tends to be worse at the end of the day whereas plantar fascia pain tends to be worse in the morning, immediately upon waking.
The causes and risk factors of retrocalcaneal bursitis are listed below. Identifying the underlying reason the bursa is inflamed will help set a course for treatment. Repetitive use of the ankle. Retrocalcaneal bursitis is often caused by frequent "mini-traumas." These mini-traumas are often due to excessive walking, jumping, or running. Running uphill, which causes the foot to flex considerably, can be especially irritating to the retrocalcaneal bursae. People who suddenly intensify their exercise programs without adequate stretching and muscle conditioning may get retrocalcaneal bursitis. In general, it is often associated with over use of the Achilles attachment, the area where the Achilles tendon fibers attach to the heel.
Pain or tenderness at the back of the heel around the Achilles region. Increased pain during activities with strong, repetitive calf contractions, walking (uphill), stair climbing, running, jumping. Pain may be worse with rest after activity (that night or the next morning) or at the beginning of the excercise. Pain when wearing shoes and the heel is getting rubbed. Bump forming on the back of the heel. Limping. Stiffness. Decreased range of motion. Redness and warmth (if the bursa gets infected).
When a patient has pain in a joint, a careful physical examination is needed to determine what type of movement is affected and if there is any swelling present. Bursitis will not show up on x-rays, although sometimes there are also calcium deposits in the joint that can be seen. Inserting a thin needle into the affected bursa and removing (aspirating) some of the synovial fluid for examination can confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, the fluid will not be clear. It can be tested for the presence of microorganisms, which would indicate an infection, and crystals, which could indicate gout. In instances where the diagnosis is difficult, a local anesthetic (a drug that numbs the area) is injected into the painful spot. If the discomfort stops temporarily, then bursitis is probably the correct diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Orthotics may assist heel bursitis by providing stability to the heel, reduce any foot functioning abnormalities and provide extra support for the feet. The orthotic achieves this by maintaining correct foot posture, therefore facilitating normal functioning of the Achilles tendon. Icing the back of the heel post activity for temporary relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen can reduce inflammation of the bursa. Stretching of the calf muscle may reduce the pulling on the heel by the Achilles tendon. Shoes that have an elevated heel may reduce pulling on the heel from the Achilles tendon. Resting the painful heel may reduce inflammation and pain. Surgical removal of the painful bursa is a last resort treatment when all other treatments have failed.
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.