In your heel, there is a sac filled with fluid known as a bursa. It is located under your Achilles tendon at the back of your heel bone. Many of your large joints have a bursa around them. They provide cushioning and lubrication for the tendons, muscles and bone. Bursitis of the heel occurs when the bursa in your ankle becomes swollen.
Bursitis may be the result of a direct injury to the heel, such as during a car accident, sport-related accident, or fall that causes a forceful impact or abnormal twisting of the foot. It can also occur due to repetitive use, misuse, or overuse, such as seen in athletic over-training. Excessive pressure over the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, such from wearing shoes that are tight or fit poorly, can also be a causative factor. Septic bursitis occurs secondary to an infection. The infection may occasionally be systemic, but is most often a localized infection from a subcutaneous heel wound that leaks into the underlying bursa. Other risk factors include any of the following, existing Achilles tendinitis, existing Haglund's deformity, the natural degenerative processes of aging, improper stretching prior to exercise, anatomical differences in the lower extremities that impacts gait, having deformed joints.
Pain or tenderness at the back of the heel around the Achilles region. Increased pain during activities with strong, repetitive calf contractions, walking (uphill), stair climbing, running, jumping. Pain may be worse with rest after activity (that night or the next morning) or at the beginning of the excercise. Pain when wearing shoes and the heel is getting rubbed. Bump forming on the back of the heel. Limping. Stiffness. Decreased range of motion. Redness and warmth (if the bursa gets infected).
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
It is important to treat bursitis in the early stages to reduce the symptoms, minimize damage and maintain motion and strength in your foot. Resting your ankle, using proper cushioning, wearing comfortable footwear and reducing any activities that add pressure on your bursa will help to reduce your pain and bursitis inflammation.
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.
Maintain proper form when exercising, as well as good flexibility and strength around the ankle to help prevent this condition. Proper stretching of the Achilles tendon helps prevent injury.