Achilles tendon bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) located either between the skin of the back of the heel and the Achilles tendon (posterior Achilles tendon bursitis) or in front of the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the heel bone (anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, retrocalcaneal bursitis). Typical symptoms include swelling and warmth and a tender spot at the back of the heel. The diagnosis is based on symptoms, an examination, and sometimes x-rays. Treatment is aimed at relieving the inflammation and, depending on the location of the Achilles tendon bursitis, eliminating the pressure on the back of the heel. The Achilles tendon is the tendon that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis is often associated with formation of a bone prominence called Haglund deformity or ?pump bump? on the heel bone. Anterior Achilles tendon bursitis is also called Albert disease or retromalleolar bursitis.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is generally caused by local trauma from poorly designed shoes. Patients complain of posterolateral heel pain and may have a posterior heel prominence (?pump bump?), as well as local swelling and tenderness over the Achilles tendon. Pain is increased by squeezing the bursa from side to side and anterior to the Achilles. A heel lift and open-back shoes help alleviate pressure.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is very similar to Achilles bursitis as the bursae are very close in proximity and symptoms are almost identical however retrocalcaneal bursitis is a lot more common. The symptoms of bursitis vary depending on whether the bursitis is the result of injury or an underlying health condition or from infection. From normal overuse and injury the pain is normally a constant dull ache or burning pain at the back of the heel that is aggravated by any touch, pressure like tight shoes or movement of the joint. There will normally be notable swelling around the back of the heel. In other cases where the bursa lies deep under the skin in the hip or shoulder, swelling might not be visible. Movement of the ankle and foot will be stiff, especially in the mornings and after any activity involving the elbow. All of these symptoms are experienced with septic bursitis with the addition of a high temperature of 38?C or over and feverish chills. The skin around the affected joint will also appear to be red and will feel incredibly warm to the touch. In cases of septic bursitis it is important that you seek medical attention. With injury induced bursitis if symptoms are still persisting after 2 weeks then report to your GP.
Gram stain. A lab test called a Gram stain is used to determine if certain troublesome bacteria are present. Not all bacteria can be identified with a Gram stain, however, so even if the test comes back negative, septic bursitis cannot be completely ruled out. White blood cell count. An elevated number of white blood cells in the bursa's synovial fluid indicates an infection. Glucose levels test. Glucose levels that are significantly lower than normal may indicate infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Physical therapy is also used to treat retrocalcaneal bursitis. People with this condition may be instructed to use ice on the heel and ankle several times each day. Ice should be applied for periods of 15 to 20 minutes. Prolonged use of ice is not recommended because it can stop blood flow if left in place for a long period of time. Exercises and stretches for the Achilles tendon can help to relieve some of the pressure on the bursae below the tendons. If physical activity must be limited due to a flare-up of this condition, other exercises can be done to maintain fitness. They include water aerobics and swimming.
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.
To prevent bursitis of the heel in the first place, always keep proper form during exercise. In addition, don?t jump into exercises that are too intense without building up to them. Strengthen and flex your ankle.