Infracalcaneal bursitis can significantly affect a person?s quality of life and his or her ability to perform activities of daily living, due to pain and impaired gait. This foot health problem may be diagnosed in several ways, including by palpation, or light pressure applied to the affected area by a healthcare practitioner. If the heel pain has existed for a long time, X-ray imaging studies may reveal localized calcification in the infracalcaneal bursa, though this is not always the case. MRI images are sometimes used as a diagnostic tool for this health problem, though MRI studies are considered unnecessary for diagnosis in many cases.
There are several factors which can predispose patients to developing this condition. These need to be assessed and corrected with direction from a physiotherapist and may include poor foot biomechanics (particularly flat feet), inappropriate footwear (e.g. excessively tight fitting shoes), muscle weakness (particularly the calf, quadriceps and gluteals), muscle tightness (particularly the calf), joint stiffness (particularly the ankle, subtalar joint or foot), bony anomalies of the heel bone, inappropriate or excessive training or activity, inadequate recovery periods from sport or activity, inadequate warm up, inadequate rehabilitation following a previous Achilles injury, change in training conditions or surfaces, inappropriate running technique, inadequate fitness, poor pelvic and core stability, poor proprioception or balance, being overweight.
When the bursa becomes inflamed after an injury, symptoms usually develop suddenly. When the bursa develops without an injury, symptoms may develop gradually. With both posterior and anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, symptoms usually include swelling and warmth at the back of the heel. A minimally red, swollen, tender spot develops on the back of the heel. When the inflamed bursa enlarges, it appears as a red lump under the skin of the heel and causes pain at and above the heel. If posterior Achilles tendon bursitis becomes chronic, the swelling may become hard, fluid-filled, and red or flesh-colored.
Diagnosis is first by clinical suspicion of symptoms. This can be mistaken for gout or infection especially in the big toe region. A diagnosis of bursitis is usually used in combination of the underlying cause, for instance a bunion deformity, Haglund’s deformity, or Heel Spur Syndrome. Many times the cause needs to be addressed to rid the problem of bursitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many cases of retrocalcaneal and retroachilles bursitis can be treated effectively at home. One of the most important factors is eliminating shoe gear that presses against the back of the heel. Comfortable, supportive footwear and frequently resting the foot will minimize friction at the heel and give the inflammation a chance to subside. These steps, along with other methods to alleviate swelling, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, e.g., ibuprofen), icing the heel, and elevating the foot, are usually successful in treating retrocalcaneal bursitis.
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).