Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as shock absorbers and cushions for our bones and tendons. There are two such sacs located on the back of your heel. The subtendinous calcaneal, also called retrocalcaneal bursa, is situated between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus). The subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, which is also referred to as the Achilles bursa, is found on the backside of the heel and Achilles. If either or both of these bursae become inflamed, the result is pain and tenderness.
There are several factors which can lead to a person developing retrocalcaneal bursitis. In athletes, especially runners, overtraining, sudden excessive increase in running mileage may lead to retrocalcaneal bursitis. Tight or ill-fitting shoes can be another causative factor as they can produce excessive pressure at the back of the heel due to restrictive heel counter. A person with an excessively prominent posterosuperior aspect of the heel bone (Haglund deformity) may also have a higher predisposition to retrocalcaneal bursitis. In such individuals, pain would be reproduced when the ankle goes into dorsiflexion.
A dull ache under the heel when not weight bearing. Sometimes severe pain when walking. Pain can increase after resting (sleeping or sitting) then standing and placing pressure on the area again. Throbbing under the heel. Swelling may be identified as a discernible lump under the heel. This is the swollen calcaneal bursa itself. Tingling under the heel as swelling affect the plantar nerves. Pains shooting into the foot or up the leg.
The doctor will discuss your symptoms and visually assess the bones and soft tissue in your foot. If a soft tissue injury is suspected, an MRI will likely be done to view where and how much the damage is in your ankle. An x-ray may be recommended to rule out a bone spur or other foreign body as the cause of your ankle pain. As the subcutaneous bursa is close to the surface of the skin, it is more susceptible to septic, or infectious, bursitis caused by a cut or scrape at the back of the heel. Septic bursitis required antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Your doctor will be able to determine whether there is an infection or not by drawing a small sample of the bursa fluid with a needle.
Non Surgical Treatment
Podiatric Care may include using anti-inflammatory oral medications or an injection of medication and local anesthetic to reduce the swelling in the bursa. An injection may be used for both diagnosis and for treatment. When you go to your doctor, x-rays are usually required to evaluate the structure of your foot and ankle to ensure no other problems exist in this area. They may advise you on different shoewear or prescribe a custom made orthotic to try and control the foot structure especially if you have excessive pronation. Sometimes patients are sent to Physical Therapy for treatment as well. To aid in relief of pressure points, some simple padding techniques can be utilized. Most all patients respond to these conservative measures once the area of irritation is removed.
Maintain proper form when exercising, as well as good flexibility and strength around the ankle to help prevent this condition. Proper stretching of the Achilles tendon helps prevent injury.