Bursitis is the painful inflammation of the bursa, a padlike sac found in areas subject to friction. Bursae cushion the movement between the bones, tendons and muscles near the joints. Bursitis is most often caused by repetitive movement and is known by several common names including weaver's bottom, clergyman's knee, and miner's elbow, depending on the affected individual's occupation and area of injury.
Feet are extremely resilient and are designed to stand up to the pressures of day-to-day living. In some cases, though, foot structures may break down when subjected to chronic stress associated with long periods of weight-bearing activity on concrete, asphalt, or other hard surfaces (especially when footwear does not allow for proper weight distribution). Foot problems, including infracalcaneal bursitis, are often made worse by poorly designed footwear, and pressure, impact, and shear forces can damage the feet over time. Bursal sacs are intended to minimize this damage, but sometimes the bursa itself becomes inflamed. A rapid increase in physical activity levels or thinning of the heel?s protective fat pad are factors that may contribute to infracalcaneal bursitis. Other possible causes of infracalcaneal bursitis include blunt force trauma. Arthritic conditions. Acute or chronic infection. The following factors may increase a person?s risk of bursitis, including infracalcaneal bursitis. Poor conditioning. Exposure to cold weather. Participating in contact sports. Having a previous history of bursitis in any joint. Heel striking when running, especially in conventional running shoes with heel elevation.
Pain at the back of the heel, especially when running uphill. Pain may get worse when rising on the toes (standing on tiptoes). Tenderness at the back of heel. Swelling at the back of heel.
Gram stain. A lab test called a Gram stain is used to determine if certain troublesome bacteria are present. Not all bacteria can be identified with a Gram stain, however, so even if the test comes back negative, septic bursitis cannot be completely ruled out. White blood cell count. An elevated number of white blood cells in the bursa's synovial fluid indicates an infection. Glucose levels test. Glucose levels that are significantly lower than normal may indicate infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
During the initial acute phase of the condition, patients should apply ice to the back of the heel for 15 to 20 minutes and follow the R.I.C.E.R regime. Avoid activities that cause pain. Gradual progressive stretching of the calf muscle and Achilles tendon is also advocated. Changing the footwear. Wearing an open-backed shoe may help relieve pressure on the affected region. For those whose symptoms were caused by a sudden change from wearing high-heeled shoes to flat shoes, the temporary use of footwear with a heel height in between may be helpful. Inserting a heel cup in the shoe may help to raise the inflamed region slightly above the shoe?s restricting heel counter and relieve the pain. It is advisable to also insert the heel cup into the other shoe to avoid any leg-leg discrepancies that can lead to other problems. Training frequency and intensity should be gradually progressed with adequate rest between trainings.
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.
Do not run if you have pain. When you begin running again, avoid running fast uphill or downhill until the tendon is fully healed. Start exercising when caregivers say that it is OK. Slowly start exercise such as bicycling when caregivers say it is OK. When doing exercises that put pressure on the ankles, such as running or walking, exercise on flat, even surfaces. Avoid doing these exercises on very hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. Stretch before exercising. Always warm up your muscles and stretch gently before exercising. Do cool down exercises when you are finished. This will loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your heel. Wear heel protectors. Use soft foam or felt heel pads (wedges or cups) to help decrease pressure against your heel. Ask your caregiver which heel pads are the best for you. Wear well-fitting shoes. Buy running or exercise shoes that support and fit your feet well. Do not wear low-cut shoes. Talk to your caregiver or go to a special exercise footwear store to get well-fitting athletic shoes. Ask your caregiver if you should wear specially-made shoe inserts called orthotics (or-THOT-iks). Orthotics can line up your feet in your shoes to help you run, walk and exercise correctly.