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.
Age. Bursitis is more common during middle age due to repetitive activities that put wear and tear on the body over time. Certain activities or occupations. If your job or hobby involves repetitive motion or puts pressure on bursae, you have a higher likelihood of developing bursitis. Reaching overhead, leaning elbows on arm rests, crossing your legs, laying carpet, setting tile, gardening, biking, playing baseball and ice skating are some activities that, when repeated very often, can put you at increased risk of developing bursitis. Sports in which you may get hit in the knee or fall to the knees, such as football, can also increase the risk. Some medical or health conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, thyroid disease, diabetes, alcoholism and some immunosuppressive disorders can increase the risk of bursitis. The reasons can vary, from cartilage breakdown around joints (arthritis) to crystals in the bursa that cause inflammation (gout). Wearing high heels. Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis occurs when the bursa located between the skin and the Achilles tendon (the band of tissue that attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone) becomes inflamed. High heels are often to blame for this, the stiff heel can put direct pressure on the bursa between the skin and the Achilles tendon.
Posterior heel pain is the chief complaint in individuals with calcaneal bursitis. Patients may report limping caused by the posterior heel pain. Some individuals may also report an obvious swelling (eg, a pump bump, a term that presumably comes from the swelling’s association with high-heeled shoes or pumps). The condition may be unilateral or bilateral. Symptoms are often worse when the patient first begins an activity after rest.
A good clinical practise includes evaluation of the tendon, bursa and calcaneum by, careful history, inspection of the region for bony prominence and local swelling as well as palpation of the area of maximal tenderness. Biomechanical abnormalities, joint stiffness and proximal soft tissue tightening can exacerbate an anatomical predisposition to retrocalcaneal bursitis, they warrant correction when present.
Non Surgical Treatment
Gradually progressive stretching of the Achilles tendon may help to relieve impingement on the subtendinous calcaneal bursa. Stretching of the Achilles tendon can be performed by having the patient place the affected foot flat on the floor and lean forward toward the wall until a gentle stretch is felt in the ipsilateral Achilles tendon. The stretch is maintained for 20-60 seconds and then is relaxed. Achilles stretch 1. The patient stands with the affected foot flat on the floor and leans forward toward the wall until a gentle stretch is felt in the ipsilateral Achilles tendon. The stretch is maintained for 20-60 seconds and then is relaxed. Achilles stretch 2. This stretch, which is somewhat more advanced than that shown in Images 1-2, isolates the Achilles tendon. It is held for at least 20-30 seconds and then is relaxed. To maximize the benefit of the stretching program, the patient should repeat the exercise for multiple stretches per set, multiple times per day. Ballistic (ie, abrupt, jerking) stretches should be avoided in order to prevent clinical exacerbation. The patient should be instructed to ice the posterior heel and ankle in order to reduce inflammation and pain. Icing can be performed for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, during the acute period, which may last for several days. Some clinicians also advocate the use of contrast baths, ultrasound or phonophoresis, iontophoresis, or electrical stimulation for treatment of calcaneal bursitis. If the patient’s activity level needs to be decreased as a result of this condition, alternative means of maintaining strength and cardiovascular fitness (eg, swimming, water aerobics) should be suggested.
Surgery. Though rare, particularly challenging cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis might warrant a bursectomy, in which the troublesome bursa is removed from the back of the ankle. Surgery can be effective, but operating on this boney area can cause complications, such as trouble with skin healing at the incision site. In addition to removing the bursa, a doctor may use the surgery to treat another condition associated with the retrocalcaneal bursitis. For example, a surgeon may remove a sliver of bone from the back of the heel to alter foot mechanics and reduce future friction. Any bone spurs located where the Achilles attaches to the heel may also be removed. Regardless of the conservative treatment that is provided, it is important to wait until all pain and swelling around the back of the heel is gone before resuming activities. This may take several weeks. Once symptoms are gone, a patient may make a gradual return to his or her activity level before their bursitis symptoms began. Returning to activities that cause friction or stress on the bursa before it is healed will likely cause bursitis symptoms to flare up again.