Retrocalcaneal bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus). The retrocalcaneal bursa is located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone and is designed to reduce friction between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone. During contraction of the calf muscle, tension is generated through the Achilles tendon and it rubs against the retrocalcaneal bursa. When there is excessive friction due to repetitive rubbing of the tendon against the bursa or high impact force translating through the Achilles tendon, irritation and inflammation of the bursa may occur. The inflammation can also be aggravated by pressure, such as when athletes wear tight-fitting shoes. This condition is often mistaken for Achilles tendinitis but it can also occur in conjunction with Achilles tendinitis.
Bursitis of the Achilles tendon is caused by the irritation and inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa, a small fluid-filled sac located in the back of the ankle that acts as a cushion and lubricant for the ankle joint. Possible causes of Achilles tendon bursitis include aging, Factors related to the aging process, including the onset of rheumatoid arthritis and gout, can deteriorate the bursa. Overuse of ankle. Excessive walking, uphill running, jumping, and other aggressive exercise regimens, especially without proper conditioning, can cause irritation to the bursa. Trauma. Sudden injury to the ankle joint, or trauma caused by rigid or improperly fitted shoes, can increase the chances of developing bursitis.
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.
Medical examination is not necessarily required in light cases where the tenderness is minimal. In all cases where smooth improvement is not experienced, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible to exclude a (partial) rupture of the Achilles tendon or rupture of the soleus muscle. This situation is best determined by use of ultrasound scanning, as a number of injuries requiring treatment can easily be overlooked during a clinical examination (Ultrasonic image). Ultrasound scanning enables an evaluation of the extent of the change in the tendon, inflammation of the tendon (tendinitis), development of cicatricial tissue (tendinosis), calcification, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tendon (peritendinitis), inflammation of the bursa (bursitis), as well as (partial) rupture.
Non Surgical Treatment
Surgery should always be the last option. We believe that biologic treatments that preserve normal anatomy are very helpful, particularly for runner, athletes, and active professionals with buy schedules. All non-surgical approaches attempt to calm down the inflammation of the bursa and Achilles tendon. They do not address the bony bump, but they can substantially reduce and shrink the inflamed soft tissue. Some non-surgical treatments include Oral Anti-inflammatory Medications. NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as Motrin, Aleve, and Steroids (like prednisone) may help control the pain and stop the inflammation. Topical Anti-inflammatory Medications. NSAID’s in cream or lotion form may be applied directly to the inflamed area. With these, there is no concern for stomach upset or other problems associated with oral medication. Ice. Ice can applied be applied right to the red, inflamed area and help calm it down. Try applying a podiatrist-approved ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes of each hour. Just make sure you don’t put ice directly against the skin. Exercises. Stretching exercises may relieve some of the tension in the Achilles tendon that started the problem. If you have Equinus Deformity (or a tight heel cord) this is critical to prevent it from coming back again. Heel lifts. Heel lifts placed inside the shoe can decrease the pressure on the Achilles tendon. Remember, pressure and friction cause the bump to become inflamed. Heel pads. Placing gel padding to cushion the Achilles tendon (at the back of the heel) can also help reduce irritation from shoes. Shoe modification. Wearing open-backed shoes, or shoes that have soft backs. This will also help stop the irritation. Physical therapy. Physical therapy, such as ultrasound, massage and stretching can all reduce the inflammation without surgery. Orthotic devices. Custom arch supports known as foot orthotics control abnormal motion in the foot that can allow the heel to tilt over and rub against the heel counter. Orthotics can decrease symptoms and help prevent it from happening again. Immobilization. In some cases, a walking cast boot or plaster/fiberglass cast is necessary to take pressure off the bursa and tendon, while allowing the area to calm down. ESWT. Extra-corporeal Shock Wave Therapy uses high energy sound waves to break up diseased tissue in the bursa and Achilles tendon and stimulate your own bodies healing processes to repair the diseased area. It may be done in the office or in a an outpatient surgery center. There is no incision and no stitches with ESWT. PRP. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is a therapeutic injection. A small sample of blood is drawn from the patient and the healing factors found in the platelets are concentrated in a centrifuge. By injecting the concentrated solution right into the damaged Achilles tendon, a powerful healing can be stimulated. This can be done in the office. No hospital or surgery required.
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.