Retrocalcaneal bursitis is the painful inflammation and swelling of the retrocalcaneal bursa that is situated between the calcaneus (heel bone) and the Achilles tendon. A bursa is a small fluid filled sac that forms around joints in areas where there is a lot of friction between muscles, tendons and outcrops of bone. The bursae position themselves in between the tendon or muscle and the bone, buffering any friction from movement. To picture a bursa imagine it as a very small water filled balloon that sits in places where things rub against each other, such as in between a tendon and a bone, to provide a soft smooth cushion for the tendon to pass over painlessly. The covering of the bursa also acts as a lubricant and aids the tendon?s movement. It is estimated that there is over 150 bursae in your body which protect the joint and tendons from wear. They are all very small and unnoticeable until they become swollen and painful with bursitis.
The following are some of the more common causes for heel bursitis. Overuse (common in runners and athletes). Running with the wrong footwear. A sudden impact to the foot. Repetitive stress. Underlying inflammatory condition (such as osteoarthritis).
Symptoms of Achilles bursitis are often mistaken for Achilles tendinitis because of the location of the pain at the back of the heel. When you suffer from Achilles bursitis you will experience some or all of the following symptoms which are most noticeable when you begin activity after resting. High heels can add pressure on the retrocalcaneal bursa, subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, and Achilles tendon.
The diagnosis is based on the symptoms and an examination. For anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, doctors use x-rays to rule out a fracture of the heel bone or damage to the heel bone caused by rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Relieving the symptoms of bursitis initially focuses on taking the pressure off the bursa. This can be done with proper cushioning, inserts, or footwear but may require surgery if it is a bone formation problem (i.e. Huglund’s Deformity). If your bursitis is caused by an infection (septic bursitis), the doctor will probably drain the bursa sac with a needle and prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
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.