Bursitis On The Foot

Overview


Retrocalcaneal and retroachilles bursitis are both common types of bursitis that can cause pain at the back of the foot, just above the heel. This pain, and often swelling, occurs when one or both bursae at the back of the heel become irritated and inflamed. Because they have similar symptoms, heel bursitis is sometimes confused with problems affecting the Achilles tendon, which is a long strip of fibrous tissue that connects the back of the heel to the calf muscle. Other times, Achilles tendon problems may bring about the bursitis. For example, tight calf muscles can contribute to chronic pulling where the Achilles tendon inserts into the back of the heel. This pulling can result in friction and irritation that eventually lead to bursitis.


Causes


Bursitis, tendinitis, and other soft tissue rheumatic syndromes typically result from one or more factors. These include: Play or work activities that cause overuse or injury to the joint areas Incorrect posture Stress on the soft tissues from an abnormal or poorly positioned joint or bone (such as leg length differences or arthritis in a joint) Other diseases or conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriasis, thyroid disease, or an unusual drug reaction) Infection.


Symptoms


The following are the most common symptoms of bursitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Bursitis can cause pain, localized tenderness, and limited motion. Swelling and redness may occur if the inflamed bursa is close to the surface (superficial). Chronic bursitis may involve repeated attacks of pain, swelling, and tenderness, which may lead to the deterioration of muscles and a limited range of motion. The symptoms of bursitis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.


Diagnosis


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may demonstrate bursal inflammation, but this modality probably does not offer much more information than that found by careful physical examination. Theoretically, MRI could help the physician to determine whether the inflammation is within the subcutaneous bursa, the subtendinous bursa, or even within the tendon itself, however, such testing is generally not necessary. Ultrasonography may be a potentially useful tool for diagnosing pathologies of the Achilles tendon.


Non Surgical Treatment


Home treatment is often enough to reduce pain and let the bursa heal. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around your joints. Rest the affected area. Avoid any activity or direct pressure that may cause pain. Apply ice or cold packs as soon as you notice pain in your muscles or near a joint. Apply ice 10 to 15 minutes at a time, as often as twice an hour, for 3 days (72 hours). You can try heat, or alternating heat and ice, after the first 72 hours. Use pain relievers. Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to reduce pain and inflammation. NSAIDs come in pills and also in a cream that you rub over the sore area. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) can also help with pain. Don't rely on medicine to relieve pain so that you can keep overusing the joint. Do range-of-motion exercises each day. If your bursitis is in or near a joint, gently move the joint through its full range of motion, even during the time that you are resting the joint area. This will prevent stiffness. As the pain goes away, add other exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joint. Avoid tobacco smoke.Smoking delays wound and tissue healing. If you have severe bursitis, your doctor may use a needle to remove extra fluid from the bursa. You might wear a pressure bandage on the area. Your doctor may also give you a shot of medicine to reduce swelling. Some people need surgery to drain or remove the bursa. Sometimes the fluid in the bursa can get infected. If this happens, you may need antibiotics. Bursitis is likely to improve in a few days or weeks if you rest and treat the affected area. But it may return if you don't stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint and change the way you do some activities.


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.

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