The calf muscle (M Gastrocnemicus) is comprised of two muscle heads which gather in a wide tendinous ligament and continue in to the Achilles tendon. Another of the larger calf muscles (M Soleus) is attached to the front side of the Achilles tendon and thus forms a part of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles is attached to the heel bone (calcaneus). At the heel bone there is a bursa in front of the Achilles anchor point (bursae tendinis Achilles), as well as behind (bursae subcutanea calcanei). The bursa reduce the pressure against the heel bone.
Causes of bursitis can be from any form of friction between bone and the soft tissues. The most common cause is due to abnormal pronation.
Pain in the heel, especially with walking, running, or when the area is touched. Pain may get worse when rising on the toes (standing on tiptoes). Red, warm skin over the back of the heel.
Diagnosis is first by clinical suspicion of symptoms. This can be mistaken for gout or infection especially in the big toe region. A diagnosis of bursitis is usually used in combination of the underlying cause, for instance a bunion deformity, Haglund’s deformity, or Heel Spur Syndrome. Many times the cause needs to be addressed to rid the problem of bursitis.
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.
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.