Gemma Hert
Bursitis On The Foot
Overview


Swelling and inflammation near a joint may be a sign of bursitis, a condition that involves buildup of liquid and inflammation in a bursa sac that cushions a joint. This condition has earned some interesting names over the years: housemaid?s knee, student?s elbow, and tailor?s bottom, to name a few. Simply put, bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa and buildup of fluid in the bursa sac. A bursa is a thin, slippery sac found around a joint that serves to reduce friction between bone and surrounding soft tissue, such as skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons. A bursa sac is made up of a synovial membrane, or synovium, that produces and contains synovial fluid. Excessive friction, a trauma, or other condition can irritate the synovium and cause it to become inflamed. The inflamed synovium will thicken and produce excess synovial fluid, and can cause symptoms such as localized swelling, skin redness and warmth, tenderness and pain. Of the approximately 160 bursae in the body, only a handful of them usually cause bursitis. These usual suspects are found in the knee, shoulder, elbow, and hip. Less frequently, bursitis may also occur in the heel, wrist, buttocks and big toe.


Causes


Normally, only one bursa is in the heel, between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus). This bursa may become inflamed, swollen, and painful, resulting in anterior Achilles tendon bursitis. Abnormal pressure and foot dysfunction can cause a protective bursa to form between the Achilles tendon and the skin. This bursa may also become inflamed, swollen, and painful, resulting in posterior Achilles tendon bursitis.


Symptoms


You might have Retrocalcaneal Bursitis if you notice any of the following symptoms. You have pain or tenderness at the back of the heel where the Achille's tendon attaches. Have swelling near the attachment of the tendon to the heel bone. You have noticed a slowly growing bump on the back of the heel. The back of the heel turns red after getting rubbed in shoes. The back of the heel hurts worse when you run, walk up hill or wear high heels.


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


The most important part of treating bursitis is resting your Achilles tendon while the bursa heals. Resting your ankle as much as possible may decrease swelling and keep the bursitis from getting worse. When the pain decreases, begin normal, slow movements. Ice causes blood vessels to constrict (get small) which helps decrease inflammation (swelling, pain, and redness). Put crushed ice in a plastic bag or use a bag of frozen corn or peas. Cover it with a towel. Put this on your heel for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times each day. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite. After two or three days, you may try using heat to decrease pain and stiffness. Use a hot water bottle, heating pad, whirlpool or warm, moist compress. To make a compress, dip a clean washcloth in warm water. Wring out the extra water and put it on your heel for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times each day. Your caregiver may tell you to switch between treating your heel with ice packs and heat treatments. Follow the caregiver's directions carefully when doing these treatments.


Surgical Treatment


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.


Prevention


Prevention can be accomplished by controlling your foot structure with good supportive shoes or arch supports. Pay attention to early signs of friction like blister formation. This tells you where the areas that are more likely to cause a bursa to form and subsequently a bursitis.