A bursa is a closed, fluid-filled sac that functions as a cushion and gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues of the body. The major bursae are located adjacent to the tendons near the large joints, such as in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. When the bursa becomes inflamed, the condition is known as bursitis. Bursitis is usually a temporary condition. It may restrain motion, but generally does not cause deformity.
If the posterior-superior portion of the heel has an abnormally large bony prominence protruding from it (called a Haglund’s Deformity), in some instances it may rub against the Achilles Tendon. When this occurs, the bursa between the bone and the tendon will become inflamed, swollen, and painful. This condition is called Retrocalcaneal Bursitis. The presence of a Haglund’s Deformity does not insure that these problems will occur. In order for these problems to occur, the heel and foot must be tilted in such a way as to actually force this bony prominence into the bursa and tendon.
Nagging ache and swelling in or around a joint. Painful and restricted movement in the affected joint. Pain radiating into the neck or arms when bursitis strikes the shoulder (the most common site). Fever, when associated with an infection.
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
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.
Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be performed in extreme cases. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, then additional treatment is needed. Septic bursitis is caused by the presence of a pus-forming organism, usually staphylococcus aureus. This is confirmed by examining a sample of the fluid in the bursa and requires treatment with antibiotics taken by mouth, injected into a muscle or into a vein (intravenously). The bursa will also need to be drained by needle two or three times over the first week of treatment. When a patient has such a serious infection, there may be underlying causes. There could be undiscovered diabetes, or an inefficient immune system caused by human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).
It isn’t always possible to avoid the sudden blow, bump, or fall that may produce bursitis. But you can protect your body with measures similar to those that protect you from other kinds of overuse injuries, such as tendinitis. Keep yourself in good shape. Strengthening and flexibility exercises tone muscles that support joints and help increase joint mobility. Don?t push yourself too hard (or too long). If you?re engaged in physical labor, pace yourself and take frequent breaks. If you?re beginning a new exercise program or a new sport, work up gradually to higher levels of fitness. And anytime you?re in pain, stop. Work on technique. Make sure your technique is correct if you play tennis, golf, or any sport that may strain your shoulder. Watch out for ?elbow-itis.? If you habitually lean on your elbow at your work desk, this may be a sign that your chair is uncomfortable or the wrong height. Try to arrange your work space so that you don?t have to lean on your elbow to read, write, or view your computer screen. Take knee precautions. If you have a task that calls for lots of kneeling (for example, refinishing or waxing a floor), cushion your knees, change position frequently, and take breaks. Wear the right shoes. High-heeled or ill-fitting shoes cause bunions, and tight shoes can also cause bursitis in the heel. Problems in the feet can also affect the hips. In particular, the tendons and bursae in the hips can be put under excessive strain by worn-down heels. Buy shoes that fit and keep them in good repair. Never wear a shoe that?s too short or narrow. Women should save their high heels for special occasions only. Avoid staying in only one position for too long. Get up and walk around for a while or change positions frequently.