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.
Age. Bursitis is more common during middle age due to repetitive activities that put wear and tear on the body over time. Certain activities or occupations. If your job or hobby involves repetitive motion or puts pressure on bursae, you have a higher likelihood of developing bursitis. Reaching overhead, leaning elbows on arm rests, crossing your legs, laying carpet, setting tile, gardening, biking, playing baseball and ice skating are some activities that, when repeated very often, can put you at increased risk of developing bursitis. Sports in which you may get hit in the knee or fall to the knees, such as football, can also increase the risk. Some medical or health conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, thyroid disease, diabetes, alcoholism and some immunosuppressive disorders can increase the risk of bursitis. The reasons can vary, from cartilage breakdown around joints (arthritis) to crystals in the bursa that cause inflammation (gout). Wearing high heels. Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis occurs when the bursa located between the skin and the Achilles tendon (the band of tissue that attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone) becomes inflamed. High heels are often to blame for this, the stiff heel can put direct pressure on the bursa between the skin and the Achilles tendon.
Unlike Achilles tendinitis, which tends to manifest itself slightly higher on the lower leg, Achilles tendon bursitis usually creates pain and irritation at the back of the heel. Possible signs of bursitis of the Achilles tendon include difficulty to rise on toes. Standing on your toes or wearing high heels may increase the heel pain. Inflammation and tenderness. The skin around your heel can become swollen and warm to the touch. Redness may be visible. Pain in the heel. Pain tends to become more prominent when walking, running, or touching the inflamed area. Stiffness. The back of your ankle may feel a little stiff due to the swelling of the bursa.
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
Your health care provider may recommend the following treatments. Avoid activities that cause pain. Ice the heel several times a day. Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (for example, ibuprofen). Try over-the-counter or custom heel wedges to help decrease the stress on the heel. Try ultrasound treatment during physical therapy to reduce inflammation. Use physical therapy to improve flexibility and strength around the ankle, which can help the bursitis improve and prevent it from coming back. If these treatments don't work, your health care provider may inject a small amount of steroids into the bursa. After the injection, you should avoid stretching the tendon too much because it can break open (rupture). If the condition is connected with Achilles tendinitis, casting the ankle for several weeks to keep it from moving can be effective. Very rarely, surgery may be needed to remove the inflamed bursa.
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).