Between the heel bone and the plantar fascia is a small fluid filled sac that is called the plantar (bottom of) calcaneal (heel bone) bursa. The plantar calcaneal bursa?s job is to allow the plantar fascia to glide easily over the heel bone without irritation. If this becomes inflamed and irritated a plantar calcaneal bursitis occurs which can be extremely painful and disabling forcing the athlete to stop training.
Repetitive overuse injury of the ankle during long periods of running and or walking. Tight shoes. The heel counter of the shoe constantly rubbing against the back of the heel. Wearing shoes with a low cut heel counter. Abnormal foot mechanics (abnormal pronation). Poor flexibility. Inappropriate training.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is very similar to Achilles bursitis as the bursae are very close in proximity and symptoms are almost identical however retrocalcaneal bursitis is a lot more common. The symptoms of bursitis vary depending on whether the bursitis is the result of injury or an underlying health condition or from infection. From normal overuse and injury the pain is normally a constant dull ache or burning pain at the back of the heel that is aggravated by any touch, pressure like tight shoes or movement of the joint. There will normally be notable swelling around the back of the heel. In other cases where the bursa lies deep under the skin in the hip or shoulder, swelling might not be visible. Movement of the ankle and foot will be stiff, especially in the mornings and after any activity involving the elbow. All of these symptoms are experienced with septic bursitis with the addition of a high temperature of 38?C or over and feverish chills. The skin around the affected joint will also appear to be red and will feel incredibly warm to the touch. In cases of septic bursitis it is important that you seek medical attention. With injury induced bursitis if symptoms are still persisting after 2 weeks then report to your GP.
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
Treatment is primarily comprised of relief from the painful activity (running). It is important that shoes do not pinch the heel. If satisfactory progress is not made during the rehabilitation, medical treatment can be considered in the form of rheumatic medicine (NSAID) or injection of corticosteroid in the bursa. Injections should be performed under ultrasound guidance to ensure optimal effect and reduce the risk of injecting into the Achilles itself. If progress is not made neither through rehabilitation nor medicinal treatment, surgical treatment can be attempted.
Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.