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.
For the most part, it is a genetic condition. You develop it by inheriting a foot type that is prone to the mechanical irritation that leads to the problem. If you have this particular foot type and wear shoes that rub and irritate the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the Achilles tendon attaches, then you are even more likely to develop this type of bursitis. The contributing factors include a supinated foot type, a heel bone with a prominence (or pointed shape that stick out toward the tendon) at the back, a tight Achilles tendon (referred to as Equinus by doctors), and a high arch. All of these factors simply make it more likely that the back of the heel will press against the shoe and rub. As the tendon gets rubbed the wrong way, the bursa starts to develop and fill with fluid. This response is really your body's way of protecting the tendon from damage, but it backfires. The friction from all that rubbing causes the bursa to become inflamed and swell. This causes the bump to become red, hot and stick out even further. Much like a sore thumb, it then gets irritated by even the softest shoes.
Below is a list of common signs and symptoms of retrocalcaneal bursitis. Recognizing and treating symptoms early can prevent retrocalcaneal bursitis from becoming chronic. Swelling. The retrocalcaneal bursa is located behind the Achilles tendon, just above where the tendon attaches to the heel bone. When the bursa is inflamed it will cause visible soft tissue swelling near the top of the heel bone. It is worth noting that bursitis of the retroachilles bursa, which is located between the Achilles tendon and skin, can manifest slightly differently: swelling may be more distinct, appearing as a hard lump behind the heel. Retroachilles bursitis is also more likely than retrocalcaneal bursitis to cause the skin at the back of the heel to turn red.
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
It is important to treat bursitis in the early stages to reduce the symptoms, minimize damage and maintain motion and strength in your foot. Resting your ankle, using proper cushioning, wearing comfortable footwear and reducing any activities that add pressure on your bursa will help to reduce your pain and bursitis inflammation.
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.