Bursa is a fluid filled sac of tissue that is often found around the bony prominences over which tendons and soft tissues rub. This therefore helps the tendons to glide with least amount of friction. Retrocalcaneal bursa is found behind the heel under the Achilles tendon. Retrotendoneal bursa is found on the back of the attachment of the tendon where the shoe rubs on the skin. This can cause swelling, pain and difficulty in footwear. Sometimes there is a bony prominence on the heel bone that predisposes to this condition (Haglund?s deformity). Treatment of this can be modification of footwear. However surgery is often required which involves excision of the bursa and also the bony prominence on the heel bone.
Inflammation of the bursa causes synovial cells to multiply and thereby increases collagen formation and fluid production. A more permeable capillary membrane allows entrance of high protein fluid. The bursal lining may be replaced by granulation tissue followed by fibrous tissue. The bursa becomes filled with fluid, which is often rich in fibrin, and the fluid can become hemorrhagic. One study suggests that this process may be mediated by cytokines, metalloproteases, and cyclooxygenases.
Some of the symptoms of bursitis in the heel, or retrocalcaneal bursitis, are as described below. Severe pain in the heel area of the foot, sometimes radiating to the ankle, associated with physical activities like walking, jogging and even on physical contact to the area. The physical signs of heel bursitis, which are noticeable in the heel area, are reddish discoloration of the skin that is warm to touch.
A good clinical practise includes evaluation of the tendon, bursa and calcaneum by, careful history, inspection of the region for bony prominence and local swelling as well as palpation of the area of maximal tenderness. Biomechanical abnormalities, joint stiffness and proximal soft tissue tightening can exacerbate an anatomical predisposition to retrocalcaneal bursitis, they warrant correction when present.
Non Surgical Treatment
The underlying cause of the bursitis must be identified to prevent further reoccurrences. Failure to eliminate the cause will lead to future flare ups and a poor and slow recovery. Future occurrences can be prevented with the use of stretches and strengthening exercises which will help prevent the muscles from tightening up over the bursa, Pilates and yoga are very good for this providing the aggravating movements are avoided. Wearing joint supports such as knee pads or elbow supports may also reduce the likelihood of redeveloping bursitis.
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.