Achilles tendon bursitis occurs mainly in young women but can develop in men. Walking in a way that repeatedly presses the soft tissue behind the heel against the stiff back support of a shoe can cause or aggravate the bursitis. Shoes that taper sharply inward toward the posterior heel (such as high-heeled shoes) can cause irritating pressure that leads to the development of this bursitis. Normally, only one bursa is in the heel, between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus). This bursa may become inflamed, swollen, and painful, resulting in anterior Achilles tendon bursitis. Abnormal pressure and foot dysfunction can cause a protective bursa to form between the Achilles tendon and the skin. This bursa may also become inflamed, swollen, and painful, resulting in posterior Achilles tendon bursitis. Any condition that puts extra strain on the Achilles tendon can cause anterior Achilles tendon bursitis. Injuries to the heel and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can also cause it.
Bursitis may be the result of a direct injury to the heel, such as during a car accident, sport-related accident, or fall that causes a forceful impact or abnormal twisting of the foot. It can also occur due to repetitive use, misuse, or overuse, such as seen in athletic over-training. Excessive pressure over the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, such from wearing shoes that are tight or fit poorly, can also be a causative factor. Septic bursitis occurs secondary to an infection. The infection may occasionally be systemic, but is most often a localized infection from a subcutaneous heel wound that leaks into the underlying bursa. Other risk factors include any of the following, existing Achilles tendinitis, existing Haglund's deformity, the natural degenerative processes of aging, improper stretching prior to exercise, anatomical differences in the lower extremities that impacts gait, having deformed joints.
The main symptom of heel bursitis is pain. You may experience pain in your heel when you walk or run. There may also be pain if the area is touched or if you stand on your tiptoes. In addition to pain, the area may appear red and warm, which are both signs of inflammation. Even if you have these symptoms, only a doctor can determine if you have bursitis of the heel. Your doctor will use these symptoms along with a general exam to determine if you are suffering from bursitis of the heel.
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
The most important factor in healing bursitis is resting your foot and ankle. This can be difficult when you have to carry on with daily activities, but resting and elevating your foot whenever you can is recommended. During your recovery you will probably have to modify or avoid the activities that stress your bursa until your pain and inflammation settle.
Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.
Maintain proper form when exercising, good flexibility, and strength around the ankle to help prevent this condition from arising. Proper stretching of the achilles tendon helps prevent injury.