Retrocalcaneal bursitis is a condition characterized by tissue damage and inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa (a small fluid filled sac located at the back of the heel) causing pain in the heel
region. A bursa is a thin fluid filled sac found in various places throughout the body. Bursae are designed to reduce friction between adjacent layers of tissue and are filled with lubricating fluid.
They are typically located in regions of the body where tissue layers may rub against each other or against bony prominences The muscle group at the back of the lower leg is commonly called the calf.
The calf comprises of 2 major muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) both of which insert into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. Between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone lies a bursa known as
the retrocalcaneal bursa.
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.
Symptoms of bursitis usually occur after rest and relaxation. Upon activity there is usually more intense pain in the area of the bursa. The common areas to have a bursitis in the foot are in the
bottom of the heel, behind the heel near the attachment of the Achilles Tendon as well as along the side of a bunion. A bursa may also form in multiple areas especially along the metatarsal heads, or
"ball" of your foot. You may actually feel the sac like fluid when rubbing the area of pain.
Plain radiographs of the calcaneus may reveal a Haglund deformity (increased prominence of the posterosuperior aspect of the calcaneus). However, on weight-bearing lateral radiographs, the
retrocalcaneal recess often appears normal even in patients with retrocalcaneal bursitis, limiting its usefulness in making this diagnosis.Radiographs may be used as a diagnostic measure to support a
clinician?s diagnosis of retrocalcaneal bursitis. Individuals with retrocalcaneal bursitis may have an absence of the normal radiolucency (ie, blunting) that is seen in the posteroinferior corner of
the Kager fat pad, known as the retrocalcaneal recess or bursal wedge. This may occur with or without an associated erosion of the calcaneus.
Non Surgical Treatment
Your GP may prescribe a short course of anti-inflammatory painkillers to reduce and control the painful inflammation that occurs and antibiotics in cases of septic bursitis. Applying a covered ice
pack to the area after the initial injury may also significantly hasten the healing process by reducing the pain and swelling. Make sure the ice pack is covered to prevent any ice burn and for best
results use the icepack regularly for 10-15 minutes with intervals of 30 minutes. Where possible it is advisable to avoid all aggravating movements and postures, however complete rest is not as this
can lead to weakness and further shortening of the muscle. Massage and manipulative therapies can help loosen the surrounding muscles and tendons of the affected joint, reducing the pressure over the
bursa and allowing it to heal faster. If the bursitis is chronic and not responding to treatment then your GP may refer you for a corticosteroid injection which will reduce the inflammation levels
which will in turn reduce the pain levels experienced. Corticosteroid injections can have varied results. Surgery is a rare option when it comes to bursitis but occasionally it may be necessary for
extremely chronic cases or to drain an infected bursa.
Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be performed in extreme cases. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, then additional treatment is needed. Septic bursitis is caused by the presence of a
pus-forming organism, usually staphylococcus aureus. This is confirmed by examining a sample of the fluid in the bursa and requires treatment with antibiotics taken by mouth, injected into a muscle
or into a vein (intravenously). The bursa will also need to be drained by needle two or three times over the first week of treatment. When a patient has such a serious infection, there may be
underlying causes. There could be undiscovered diabetes, or an inefficient immune system caused by human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).
You may be able to prevent bursitis from happening or coming back. Continue your home treatment with rest, ice, pain relievers, and gentle exercises. When you are ready to try the activity that
caused the pain, start slowly and do it for short periods or at a slower speed. Warm up before and stretch after the activity. Increase your activity slowly, and stop if it hurts. Use ice afterward
to prevent pain and swelling. Change the way you do activities with repeated movements that may strain your muscles or joints. For example if using a certain tool has caused bursitis, start switching
hands or change the grip size of your tool. If sitting for long periods has caused bursitis, get up and walk around every hour. If a certain sport is causing bursitis, consider taking lessons to
learn proper techniques. Have an expert check your equipment to make sure it's well suited to your size, strength, and ability. If certain activities at work may be causing bursitis, talk to your
human resources department about other ways of doing your job, equipment changes, or other job assignments. Protect your joints from pressure. Cushion knees or elbows on hard surfaces, and wear shoes
that fit you well and have good support.