The inflammation of the Achilles bursa is not to be confused with the, more common, retrocalcaneal bursitis. Although the retro-calcaneal and Achilles bursae are in the similar region of the heel and their irritation gets treated in almost an identical way, they are two different things.
Bursitis can be caused by an injury, an infection, or a pre-existing condition in which crystals can form in the bursa. Injury. An injury can irritate the tissue inside the bursa and cause inflammation. Doctors say that bursitis caused by an injury usually takes time to develop. The joints, tendons, or muscles that are near the bursae may have been overused. Most commonly, injury is caused by repetitive movements.
You might have Retrocalcaneal Bursitis if you notice any of the following symptoms. You have pain or tenderness at the back of the heel where the Achille’s tendon attaches. Have swelling near the attachment of the tendon to the heel bone. You have noticed a slowly growing bump on the back of the heel. The back of the heel turns red after getting rubbed in shoes. The back of the heel hurts worse when you run, walk up hill or wear high heels.
Your GP or therapist will be able to diagnose you by both listening to your history and examining you. No X-rays or further investigation should be needed to confirm diagnosis but may be requested to check for any underlying health conditions that may have triggered the bursitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Caregivers may give you special shoe inserts with a cutout around the tender area. You may also be told to wear shoes with a reinforced heel counter. This will give better heel control. You may need other shoe inserts (wedges) to raise your heel so it does not press against the back of the shoe. You may also wear shoes that are open in the back, such as sandals that have no strap across the heel. You may use ibuprofen (eye-bu-PROH-fen) and acetaminophen (a-seet-a-MIN-oh-fen) medicine for your pain. These may be bought over-the-counter at drug or grocery stores. Do not take ibuprofen if you are allergic to aspirin. You may be given shots of medicine called steroids (STER-oids) to decrease inflammation. Caregivers may add local anesthesia (an-es-THEE-zah) to the steroids. This medicine helps decrease bursitis pain. Because these shots decrease swelling and pain, you may feel like your ankle is healed and that you can return to heavy exercise. It is important to not exercise until your caregiver says it is OK. You could make the bursitis worse if you exercise too soon. You may need surgery to remove the bursa or part of your ankle bone. Surgery is usually not necessary unless the bursitis is very bad and does not heal with other treatments. Your caregiver may want you to go to physical (FIZ-i-kal) therapy (THER-ah-pee). Physical therapists may use ultrasound to increase blood flow to the injured area. Caregivers may use massage to stretch the tissue and bring heat to the injury to increase blood flow. These and other treatments may help the bursitis heal faster. Exercises to stretch your Achilles tendon and make it stronger will be started after the bursitis has healed. You may gradually increase the amount of weight you put on your foot when caregivers say it is OK. You may be told to stop exercising if you feel any pain.
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).