In your calf at the back of the lower leg sit two major muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus), both held by the Achilles tendon (Equinus). Between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone is a bursa sac called a retrocalcaneal bursa (‘calcaneus’ = ‘heel bone’ and ‘retro’ = ‘behind’). During contraction of the calf muscles, the Achilles tendon rubs against the retrocalcaneal bursa, which can become irritated as a result.
Bursitis has many causes, including autoimmune disorders, crystal deposition (gout and pseudogout), infectious diseases, traumatic events, and hemorrhagic disorders, as well as being secondary to overuse. Repetitive injury within the bursa results in local vasodilatation and increased vascular permeability, which stimulate the inflammatory cascade.
Bursitis involving the heel causes pain in the middle of the undersurface of the heel that worsens with prolonged standing and pain at the back of the heel that worsens if you bend your foot up or down.
Carrying out a diagnosis for bursitis is fairly straightforward. The doctor will examine the affected area and ask the patient some questions about his/her recent activities. If the patient has a high temperature the physician may take a small sample of fluid from a bursa near the affected body part. The sample will be tested for bacteria, and perhaps also crystals. If the patient does not get better after treatment the doctor may carry out further tests so that he/she can eliminate the possibility that the symptoms might not be due to something else. These may include an x-ray, to make sure no bones are broken or fractured. Blood tests, to check for rheumatoid arthritis. A CT scan or MRI scan to see if there is a torn tendon.
Non Surgical Treatment
Physiotherapy treatment is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and reduce the likelihood of injury recurrence in all patients with retrocalcaneal bursitis. Treatment may comprise soft tissue massage (particularly to the calf muscles), joint mobilization (of the ankle, subtalar joint and foot), dry needling, electrotherapy (e.g. ultrasound), stretches, the use of heel wedges, the use of crutches, ice or heat treatment, arch support taping, the use of a compression bandage, exercises to improve strength, flexibility, balance and core stability, education, anti-inflammatory advice, activity modification advice, biomechanical correction (e.g. the use of orthotics), footwear advice, a gradual return to activity program.
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.