A bursa is a small sack of fluid that sits between a tendon and a bone to help the tendon move smoothly over the bone. The retrocalcaneal bursa in situated in the feet between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus or heel bone. With repeated trauma the bursa can become inflamed. Achilles tendon bursitis is often mistaken for achilles tendinitis. It is possible for the athlete to have both achilles tendinitis and achilles tendon bursitis at the same time which is known as Haglund's syndrome.
Overtraining in an athlete. Tight or poorly fitting shoes that produce excessive pressure at the posterior heel. Haglund deformity. Altered joint axis. Inflammation of the calcaneal bursae is most commonly caused by repetitive (cumulative) trauma or overuse, and the condition is aggravated by pressure, such as when athletes wear tight-fitting shoes. Retrocalcaneal bursitis may also be associated with conditions such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and seronegative spondyloarthropathies. In some cases, retrocalcaneal bursitis may be caused by bursal impingement between the Achilles tendon and an excessively prominent posterosuperior aspect of the calcaneus (Haglund deformity). In Haglund disease, impingement occurs during ankle dorsiflexion.
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).
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
Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication will help with pain and swelling. Physical therapy can help stretch the Achilles to relieve any impingement. Also, a switch to properly-fitting shoes will help to prevent the condition from worsening or recurring. You might also find relief with shoe inserts such as heel cups or padding. If you have tried these measures, yet symptoms remain severe and continue to progress, surgical intervention is a possibility. Calcaneal bursitis surgery consists of excision or removal of the inflamed tissues and resection of the boney prominence. Debridement of the affected area near the Achilles may also be performed, as well as repair of the Achilles if the condition has gone so far that the tendon ruptures.
Bursectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove an inflamed or infected bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tissues of the body. Because retrocalcaneal bursitis can cause chronic inflammation, pain and discomfort, bursectomy may be used as a treatment for the condition when it is persistent and cannot be relived with other treatments. During this procedure, a surgeon makes small incisions so that a camera may be inserted into the joint. This camera is called an arthroscope. Another small incision is made so that surgical instruments can be inserted to remove the inflamed bursa.
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.