There are about 160 bursae in the human body. These little, fluid-filled sacs cushion pressure and lubricate points between our bones, tendons, and muscles near our joints. The bursae are lined with synovial cells. Synovial cells produce a lubricant that reduces friction. This cushioning and lubrication allows our joints to move easily. When a person has bursitis, inflammation of the bursa, movement or pressure is painful. Overuse, injury and sometimes an infection from gout or rheumatoid arthritis may cause bursitis.
As ligaments and tendons stretch and tear, blood from ruptured blood vessels becomes trapped in the local tissues. As the trapped blood clots up, it sticks the tissues together creating adhesions. Adhesions cause pain, inflammation and restricted movement because the layers of tissue that used to slide smoothly across one another now adhere and snap which interferes with normal functioning. It is essential to break up clotted blood as quickly as possible to prevent adhesions and scar tissue from forming.
Pain and tenderness usually develop slowly over time. Applying pressure to the back of the heel can cause pain. Wearing shoes may become uncomfortable. The back of the heel may feel achy. Pain is exacerbated when the foot is pointed or flexed, because the swollen bursa can get squeezed. A person with retrocalcaneal bursitis may feel pain when standing on their toes. Fever or chills in addition to other bursitis symptoms can be a sign of septic bursitis. Though uncommon, septic retrocalcaneal bursitis is a serious condition, and patients should seek medical care to ensure the infection does not spread.
Like all other forms of bursitis, initially the physician will take down the history of symptoms experienced by the patient, this will be followed by a detailed physical examination which involves checking for inflammation signs like pain, redness, and warmth of the heel area. The physician might examine further by moving the ankle a little to determine the exact location of pain. Further diagnostic tests including x-ray, bone scans, and MRI scan might be suggested if required.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatments should involve decreasing swelling, relieving pain and stress on the Achilles, correcting any biomechanical dysfunction (over-pronation or flat feet), treating scar tissue, and then restoring strength and movement. If you are performing an activity that could cause further trauma to the bursa, it is recommended that you protect the area with padding and/or proper footwear to prevent further irritation or damage.
Bursectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove an inflamed or infected bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tissues of the body. Because retrocalcaneal bursitis can cause chronic inflammation, pain and discomfort, bursectomy may be used as a treatment for the condition when it is persistent and cannot be relived with other treatments. During this procedure, a surgeon makes small incisions so that a camera may be inserted into the joint. This camera is called an arthroscope. Another small incision is made so that surgical instruments can be inserted to remove the inflamed bursa.