Retrocalcaneal bursitis most commonly occurs as s result of repetitive activity that encourages the calf muscles to tighten and shorten from overuse, like repetitively wearing high heels, running and even wearing tight shoes that pinch at the back of the heel. Symptoms normally include a constant dull ache or burning pain at the back of the heel that is aggravated by any touch or pressure from tight shoes or movement of the ankle joint. There will normally be noticeable swelling around the back of the heel. In cases of bursitis caused by infection the skin around the affected joint will appear red and will feel incredibly warm to the touch. Additional symptoms are a high temperature and feverish chills. Retrocalcaneal bursitis is very similar to Achilles bursitis as the bursae are very close in proximity and symptoms are almost identical however retrocalcaneal bursitis is a lot more common.
Pain at the posterior heel or ankle is most commonly caused by pathology at either the posterior calcaneus (at the calcaneal insertion site of the Achilles tendon) or at its associated bursae. Two bursae are located just superior to the insertion of the Achilles (calcaneal) tendon. Anterior or deep to the tendon is the retrocalcaneal (subtendinous) bursa, which is located between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus. Posterior or superficial to the Achilles tendon is the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, also called the Achilles bursa. This bursa is located between the skin and posterior aspect of the distal Achilles tendon. Inflammation of either or both of these bursa can cause pain at the posterior heel and ankle region.
Where the tendon joins the calcaneal bone, friction can cause the spaces between the tendon, bone and skin to swell and inflame with bursitis. This constitutes a calcaneal bursa. Apart from swelling over the back of the heel, you?ll feel acute tenderness and pain when you move it or even apply light pressure. Your swollen heel may look more red than the other one, and the swelling is often so hard it can feel like bone, partly because it sometimes is, as a bony overgrowth can occur in chronic cases.
Medical examination is not necessarily required in light cases where the tenderness is minimal. In all cases where smooth improvement is not experienced, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible to exclude a (partial) rupture of the Achilles tendon or rupture of the soleus muscle. This situation is best determined by use of ultrasound scanning, as a number of injuries requiring treatment can easily be overlooked during a clinical examination (Ultrasonic image). Ultrasound scanning enables an evaluation of the extent of the change in the tendon, inflammation of the tendon (tendinitis), development of cicatricial tissue (tendinosis), calcification, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tendon (peritendinitis), inflammation of the bursa (bursitis), as well as (partial) rupture.
Non Surgical Treatment
Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication will help with pain and swelling. Physical therapy can help stretch the Achilles to relieve any impingement. Also, a switch to properly-fitting shoes will help to prevent the condition from worsening or recurring. You might also find relief with shoe inserts such as heel cups or padding. If you have tried these measures, yet symptoms remain severe and continue to progress, surgical intervention is a possibility. Calcaneal bursitis surgery consists of excision or removal of the inflamed tissues and resection of the boney prominence. Debridement of the affected area near the Achilles may also be performed, as well as repair of the Achilles if the condition has gone so far that the tendon ruptures.
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.