What Is Bursitis In The Foot?

Overview

Infracalcaneal bursitis is inflammation of a bursa-a fluid-filled sac-below your calcaneus, or heel bone. Bursae are situated in various locations throughout your body where friction between tissues commonly occurs, and these sacs are designed to help reduce this friction and prevent pain. Repetitive movements or prolonged and excessive pressure are the most common causes of bursal inflammation, though traumatic injury may also cause this painful problem. Indeed, your body sometimes creates bursal sacs in response to trauma or tissue damage. Infracalcaneal bursitis can sometimes be difficult to differentiate from plantar fasciosis-another condition that causes pain below the heel. The key difference is that infracalcaneal bursitis tends to be worse at the end of the day whereas plantar fascia pain tends to be worse in the morning, immediately upon waking.

Causes

Overuse of the ankle joint may cause irritation of the bursa such as excessive walking, running or jumping. Poor biomechanics and foot function may ultimately lead to heel bursitis due to pulling on the back of the heel by the Achilles tendon.

A sudden increase in physical activity without adequate rest may result in heel bursitis. Excessive standing and walking bare foot on hard surfaces.

Symptoms

Pain and tenderness usually develop slowly over time. Applying pressure to the back of the heel can cause pain. Wearing shoes may become uncomfortable. The back of the heel may feel achy. Pain is exacerbated when the foot is pointed or flexed, because the swollen bursa can get squeezed. A person with retrocalcaneal bursitis may feel pain when standing on their toes. Fever or chills in addition to other bursitis symptoms can be a sign of septic bursitis. Though uncommon, septic retrocalcaneal bursitis is a serious condition, and patients should seek medical care to ensure the infection does not spread.

Diagnosis

A physical examination will be performed to determine if you have any signs of Achilles Bursitis or other ankle injury. He/she will look and feel the soft tissue and bones in your ankles to note any differences between the two of them. This will identify any abnormalities, such as swelling, bone deformities, atrophied muscles, redness and/or warmth on the skin. In many cases, the first sign that you have Achilles bursitis is swelling in the back of the foot and ankle pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

There are a variety of treatments for bursitis of the heel. Bursitis on the bottom of your heel (which is called infracalcaneal bursitis) is common in heels with thinning fat pads. Gel heel cushions or custom made orthotics (that have a horse-shoe cut and extra foam in the heel) can be lifesavers in reducing the pain. For bursitis of the posterior heel (retrocalcaneal bursitis), try to avoid going barefoot and to reduce the stress on the Achilles tendon by not over flexing your heel, the tighter your Achilles becomes, the more you compress the bursa sacs of the posterior heel. Heel lifts can help this, or wearing shoes with elevated heels (note that this method is not sanctioning high heels, as high heels can provide little comfort or support and usually are tight in the areas where your bursitis is most inflamed). Products such as AirHeel made by Aircast can help massage the bottom and back of the heel, helping to decrease pain.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.

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