Retrocalcaneal bursitis is a condition characterized by tissue damage and inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa (a small fluid filled sac located at the back of the heel) causing pain in the heel region. A bursa is a thin fluid filled sac found in various places throughout the body. Bursae are designed to reduce friction between adjacent layers of tissue and are filled with lubricating fluid. They are typically located in regions of the body where tissue layers may rub against each other or against bony prominences The muscle group at the back of the lower leg is commonly called the calf. The calf comprises of 2 major muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) both of which insert into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. Between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone lies a bursa known as the retrocalcaneal bursa.
Bursitis occurs when the bursae become irritated or infected, often causing pain on movement. When infection is involved, medical intervention is necessary to fight the underlying infection and prevent it from spreading, when infection is not involved, prompt medical attention can prevent the condition from becoming worse over time.
Symptoms of Achilles bursitis are often mistaken for Achilles tendinitis because of the location of the pain at the back of the heel. When you suffer from Achilles bursitis you will experience some or all of the following symptoms which are most noticeable when you begin activity after resting. High heels can add pressure on the retrocalcaneal bursa, subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, and Achilles tendon.
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. 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.