A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that helps to cushion and lubricate structures so that they can move more easily. You have bursa in a number of different areas of your body, including some in your ankles and feet. When problems develop with these bursa and they become inflamed, this is known as bursitis, and it can make movement difficult and even painful. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the most common form of ankle bursitis, and we talk treatment options.
In your foot, there is a bursa that is located near the back of your foot between your heel bone and the Achilles tendon. It’s job is to lubricate the ankle joint and ensure structures can move easily and respond as expected to stress. It’s known as the retrocalcaneal bursa, and when it becomes inflamed, it leads to the most common form of bursitis in the foot, which is known as retrocalcaneal bursitis (also called Anterior Achilles Tendon Bursitis).
This bursa can become inflamed for a number of different reasons. Some factors that can contribute to retrocalcaneal bursitis include:
Poor fitting shoes
Overuse or overstress
Trauma to the area
In most cases, symptoms develop slowly over time. This can make it a little more difficult to notice problems with the bursa, but don’t just willfully ignore pain and hope it gets better on its own. Common symptoms of retrocalcaneal bursitis include heel swelling and tenderness, pain when walking or bearing weight through the heel, limping or inhibited gait, redness, and in the case of bursitis caused by an infection, a fever or the chills.
Treating Retrocalcaneal Bursitis
Most foot specialists can get a good idea that the bursa is at the heart of your pain by conducting a physical exam and asking about your symptoms. If trauma occurred, an X-ray may be ordered to rule out a fracture, and if an infection is suspected, fluid collection may be conducted. An MRI can be used to spot bursa inflammation, but it may not be ordered if fractures and an infection can be reasonably ruled out in an effort to help keep patient costs down.
If retrocalcaneal bursitis is suspected, your doctor will walk you through some conservative treatment options. Changing your footwear to a more comfortable and supportive option is a good start, as is short term rest and anti-inflammatory medications. Eventually, physical therapy may be ordered to strengthen nearby structures and help take some stress off the bursa in an attempt to prevent future inflammation. If these simple changes don’t provide relief, a corticosteroid infection can provide localized relief and make it easier for you to make other lifestyle adjustments. Surgery isn’t typically recommended unless a fracture or problematic infection is present.
So if you are dealing with dull heel pain or you can no longer walk normal because of pain in your heel region, reach out to Dr. Silverman, get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan today.