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Overview

Bursa is a fluid filled sac of tissue that is often found around the bony prominences over which tendons and soft tissues rub. This therefore helps the tendons to glide with least amount of friction. Retrocalcaneal bursa is found behind the heel under the Achilles tendon. Retrotendoneal bursa is found on the back of the attachment of the tendon where the shoe rubs on the skin. This can cause swelling, pain and difficulty in footwear. Sometimes there is a bony prominence on the heel bone that predisposes to this condition (Haglund?s deformity). Treatment of this can be modification of footwear. However surgery is often required which involves excision of the bursa and also the bony prominence on the heel bone.

Causes

Bursitis has many causes, including autoimmune disorders, crystal deposition (gout and pseudogout), infectious diseases, traumatic events, and hemorrhagic disorders, as well as being secondary to overuse. Repetitive injury within the bursa results in local vasodilatation and increased vascular permeability, which stimulate the inflammatory cascade.

Symptoms

Pain or tenderness at the back of the heel around the Achilles region. Increased pain during activities with strong, repetitive calf contractions, walking (uphill), stair climbing, running, jumping. Pain may be worse with rest after activity (that night or the next morning) or at the beginning of the excercise. Pain when wearing shoes and the heel is getting rubbed. Bump forming on the back of the heel. Limping. Stiffness. Decreased range of motion. Redness and warmth (if the bursa gets infected).

Diagnosis

Your doctor will check for bursitis by asking questions about your past health and recent activities and by examining the area. If your symptoms are severe or get worse even after treatment, you may need other tests. Your doctor may drain fluid from the bursa through a needle (aspiration) and test it for infection. Or you may need X-rays, an MRI, or an ultrasound.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatments should involve decreasing swelling, relieving pain and stress on the Achilles, correcting any biomechanical dysfunction (over-pronation or flat feet), treating scar tissue, and then restoring strength and movement. If you are performing an activity that could cause further trauma to the bursa, it is recommended that you protect the area with padding and/or proper footwear to prevent further irritation or damage.

Surgical Treatment

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.

Prevention

Contact your physician if bursitis pain is disabling (when movement of the joint is largely or entirely restricted), if the pain doesn?t subside after a week of self-care, or if the joint is red and swollen. Also call your doctor if you develop a fever, which could signal infectious bursitis-a condition that especially can afflict the elbow. Except for the fever, symptoms resemble other forms of bursitis, but infectious bursitis requires immediate medical attention.