Retrocalcaneal bursitis is the inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa, which is located behind the heel bone, also known as the calcaneal bone (hence the name retrocalcaneal). The retrocalcaneal
bursa is a thin, slippery, fluid-filled sac that serves as a both a cushion and lubricant between the heel bone and the Achilles tendon. Inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa usually results from
irritation of the bursa. This irritation may be due to certain activities, an underlying health condition such as arthritis, or an abnormality of the foot, such the development of a boney prominence
on the calcaneal bone, called a Haglund's deformity.
Pain at the posterior heel or ankle is most commonly caused by pathology at either the posterior calcaneus (at the calcaneal insertion site of the Achilles tendon) or at its associated bursae. Two
bursae are located just superior to the insertion of the Achilles (calcaneal) tendon. Anterior or deep to the tendon is the retrocalcaneal (subtendinous) bursa, which is located between the Achilles
tendon and the calcaneus. Posterior or superficial to the Achilles tendon is the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, also called the Achilles bursa. This bursa is located between the skin and posterior
aspect of the distal Achilles tendon. Inflammation of either or both of these bursa can cause pain at the posterior heel and ankle region.
Common signs and symptoms associated with infracalcaneal bursitis include redness under the heel. Pain and swelling under the heel. Pain or ache in the middle part of the underside of the heel. Heel
pain or discomfort that increases with prolonged weight-bearing activities.
If heel pain has not responded to home treatment, X-rays may be ordered. These images can show deformities of the heel bone and bone spurs that have developed at the attachment of the Achilles. If
there is swelling and/or pain that is slightly higher and within the Achilles tendon itself, an MRI may be ordered to determine if the tendon is simply inflamed or if there is a chronic tear on the
tendon. Aspiration and lab tests. If a septic bursitis is highly suspected, a doctor may perform an aspiration, removing fluid from the bursa with a needle and syringe. In addition to relieving
pressure and making the patient more comfortable, it provides a fluid sample that can be tested for infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many times, Achilles tendon bursitis can be treated with home care. However, if self-care remedies do not work, your doctor may need to administer additional treatments. Home care. The most important
thing you can do to help your healing is to refrain from activities that could further aggravate the bursitis. Typical home-care treatments for Achilles tendon bursitis include Anti-inflammatory
medication. Take over-the-counter pain medication, like aspirin or ibuprofen, to reduce pain and swelling. Heel wedges. An over-the-counter or custom heel wedge can be placed in your shoe to minimize
stress in the Achilles tendon. Ice. Apply ice or other cold therapy to your sore heel several times a day. Rest. Limit your activity on the injured leg, avoid putting pressure on it whenever
possible. Also, elevate your leg during non-use to help reduce the swelling. The above remedies may be used on their own or in combination with others on the list. Physician-administered treatments.
If the above self-care remedies are not effective, you should visit your doctor for additional treatment. Possible Achilles tendon bursitis treatments your doctor may administer include
immobilization. If the bursitis is combined with Achilles tendonitis, your doctor may place a temporary cast on the ankle to prevent movement and allow it to heal. Physical therapy. Exercises may be
used to improve the ankle's strength and flexibility. Steroids. Injection of steroids into the retrocalcaneal bursa (not the Achilles tendon) may be necessary. Surgery. In very rare circumstances,
surgery may be needed to remove the retrocalcaneal bursa, however, this is typically a last resort.
After taking a history and performing a physical examination, your physician may order x-rays to rule out other disorders. Your doctor may administer injections of corticosteroids and a local
anesthetic to reduce swelling and ease pain. Also, to reduce swelling, your physician may draw excess fluid from the bursa with a syringe and then tightly wrap and compress the joint with an elastic
bandage. In severe, persistent cases surgery to remove the bursa may be necessary. For infectious bursitis, antibiotics will be prescribed.