A bursa is a fluid-containing sac that is present at many areas of pressure on the body. Its job is to protect these areas of pressure by being a shock absorber. A bursitis is an abnormal inflammation of the bursa sac caused by abnormal excessive pressure, stress and/ or strain over the area it is protecting. On the heel bone, there are two bursa sacs: one on the bottom and the other on the back. Specifically on the bottom of the heel, it is known as an Inferior (bottom) Calcaneal (heel) Bursa. On the back of the heel, it is called the Retro (back) Calcaneal Bursa. When either of these bursas become abnormally stressed, strained, or swollen, the result is bursitis of the heel. It is this bursitis that is the reason for pain in the heel upon arising (Poststatic Dyskinesia) in the morning or after resting for a while. You can either develop these bursitises with or without the presence of heel spur (explanation to follow). As stated before, Morton?s Toe can cause this by causing over pronation in the foot.
Improper foot wear, tight shoes or shoes that do not fit properly can cause extra pressure and friction on the back of the heel. Overtime, this pressure causes irritation of the bursae that protects the Achilles tendon causing one or both to swell and become inflamed. Athletes who overtrain or runners that increase their distance to quickly are at greater risk of experiencing Achilles bursitis. With over use, the Achilles bursae and tendon can become irritated and inflamed leading to thickening of the bursae lining and wearing of the tendon. Fluid builds in the bursa when it becomes irritated causing swelling of the Achilles bursa and pain at the back of the heel.
Common signs and symptoms associated with infracalcaneal bursitis include redness under the heel. Pain and swelling under the heel. Pain or ache in the middle part of the underside of the heel. Heel pain or discomfort that increases with prolonged weight-bearing activities.
When a patient has pain in a joint, a careful physical examination is needed to determine what type of movement is affected and if there is any swelling present. Bursitis will not show up on x-rays, although sometimes there are also calcium deposits in the joint that can be seen. Inserting a thin needle into the affected bursa and removing (aspirating) some of the synovial fluid for examination can confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, the fluid will not be clear. It can be tested for the presence of microorganisms, which would indicate an infection, and crystals, which could indicate gout. In instances where the diagnosis is difficult, a local anesthetic (a drug that numbs the area) is injected into the painful spot. If the discomfort stops temporarily, then bursitis is probably the correct diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
With anterior and posterior Achilles tendon bursitis, applying warm or cool compresses to the area and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can temporarily relieve the pain and inflammation, as can injections of a corticosteroid/anesthetic mixture into the inflamed bursa. The doctor is careful not to inject the mixture into the tendon. After this treatment, the person should rest. When these treatments are not effective, part of the heel bone may need to be surgically removed.
Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be performed in extreme cases. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, then additional treatment is needed. Septic bursitis is caused by the presence of a pus-forming organism, usually staphylococcus aureus. This is confirmed by examining a sample of the fluid in the bursa and requires treatment with antibiotics taken by mouth, injected into a muscle or into a vein (intravenously). The bursa will also need to be drained by needle two or three times over the first week of treatment. When a patient has such a serious infection, there may be underlying causes. There could be undiscovered diabetes, or an inefficient immune system caused by human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).
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.