Whenever tissues rub against one another, a bursa forms to allow for smooth gliding. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac and occurs normally throughout the body. Only a few cell layers thick, a bursa is filled with a lubricating fluid. However, when irritated, a bursa can become markedly thickened and painful. This is often referred to as bursitis. The retrocalcaneal bursa is positioned to allow the Achilles tendon to glide over the back part (posterior aspect) of the heel bone. When this bone becomes enlarged, inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa occurs. This inflammation results in exquisite tenderness along the posterior aspect of the heel.
Overtraining in a runner (eg, excessive increases in miles or intensity). Tight or poorly fitting shoes that, because of a restrictive heel counter, exert excessive pressure on the posterior heel and ankle
Haglund deformity, causing impingement between the increased posterior superior calcaneal prominence and the Achilles tendon during dorsiflexion. More recent research suggests that a misaligned subtalar joint axis (measured in terms of joint inclination and deviation) in relation to the Achilles tendon can result in an asymmetrical force load on the tendon, disrupting normal biomechanics. This altered joint axis is associated with an increased risk for Achilles pathologies, including bursitis.
Symptoms include pain at the back of the heel, especially when running uphill or on soft surfaces. There will be tenderness and swelling at the back of the heel which may make it difficult to wear certain shoes. When pressing in with the fingers both sides are the back of the heel a spongy resistance may be felt.
Gram stain. A lab test called a Gram stain is used to determine if certain troublesome bacteria are present. Not all bacteria can be identified with a Gram stain, however, so even if the test comes back negative, septic bursitis cannot be completely ruled out. White blood cell count. An elevated number of white blood cells in the bursa’s synovial fluid indicates an infection. Glucose levels test. Glucose levels that are significantly lower than normal may indicate infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
The initial course of treatment for this problem, after the usual ice and ibuprofen/aspirin routine or course, is to change footwear, especially if the onset of the problem was coincidental with a new pair of shoes. If this fails, a small heel lift (no more than ??) in both shoes may provide enough biomechanical adjustment to relieve the stress and/or friction over the area. If there is still no improvement, complete rest from running is probably advised, along with a professional consultation.
Surgery. Though rare, particularly challenging cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis might warrant a bursectomy, in which the troublesome bursa is removed from the back of the ankle. Surgery can be effective, but operating on this boney area can cause complications, such as trouble with skin healing at the incision site. In addition to removing the bursa, a doctor may use the surgery to treat another condition associated with the retrocalcaneal bursitis. For example, a surgeon may remove a sliver of bone from the back of the heel to alter foot mechanics and reduce future friction. Any bone spurs located where the Achilles attaches to the heel may also be removed. Regardless of the conservative treatment that is provided, it is important to wait until all pain and swelling around the back of the heel is gone before resuming activities. This may take several weeks. Once symptoms are gone, a patient may make a gradual return to his or her activity level before their bursitis symptoms began. Returning to activities that cause friction or stress on the bursa before it is healed will likely cause bursitis symptoms to flare up again.
Because many soft tissue conditions are caused by overuse, the best treatment is prevention. It is important to avoid or modify the activities that cause problems. Underlying conditions such as leg length differences, improper position or poor technique in sports or work must be corrected. Be aware of potential overuse or injury in your daily activities and change your lifestyle to prevent problems. Otherwise, problems may persist or occur repeatedly. Following are some ways you can avoid future problems. Wear walking or jogging shoes that provide good support. High-top shoes provide support for people with ankle problems. Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly. Wear heel cups or other shoe inserts as recommended by your doctor. Exercise on level, graded surfaces.