Retrocalcaneal bursitis is a painful inflammation of the soft tissues at the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the back of the heel bone. The retrocalcaneus identifies the ?retro? or behind and ?calcaneus? or heel bone. Bursitis relates to inflammation of a bursa in the retrocalcaneal region. A bursa anatomically is a fluid filled sack that is located around tendinous attachments in the body. The retrocalcaneal bursa as identified in the photo 1 protects the Achilles tendon just prior to its insertion to the retrocalcaneal region. The retrocalcaneal bursa cushions the Achilles tendon and normally allows pain free motion of the Achilles tendon over the calcaneus.
A bursa acts as a cushion and lubricant between tendons or muscles sliding over bone. There are bursas around most large joints in the body, including the ankle. The retrocalcaneal bursa is located in the back of the ankle by the heel. It is where the large Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Repeated or too much use of the ankle can cause this bursa to become irritated and inflamed. Possible causes are too much walking, running, or jumping. This condition is usually linked to Achilles tendinitis. Sometimes retrocalcaneal bursitis may be mistaken for Achilles tendinitis. Risks for this condition include starting an aggressive workout schedule, or suddenly increasing activity level without the right conditioning.
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. The symptoms of bursitis vary depending on whether the bursitis is the result of injury or an underlying health condition or from infection. From normal overuse and injury the pain is normally a constant dull ache or burning pain at the back of the heel that is aggravated by any touch, pressure like tight shoes or movement of the joint. There will normally be notable swelling around the back of the heel. In other cases where the bursa lies deep under the skin in the hip or shoulder, swelling might not be visible. Movement of the ankle and foot will be stiff, especially in the mornings and after any activity involving the elbow. All of these symptoms are experienced with septic bursitis with the addition of a high temperature of 38?C or over and feverish chills. The skin around the affected joint will also appear to be red and will feel incredibly warm to the touch. In cases of septic bursitis it is important that you seek medical attention. With injury induced bursitis if symptoms are still persisting after 2 weeks then report to your GP.
Your health care provider will take a history to find out if you have symptoms of retrocalcaneal bursitis. Examining your ankle can find the location of the pain. The physician will look for tenderness and redness in the back of the heel. The pain may be worse when the doctor bends the ankle upward (dorsiflex). Or, the pain may be worse when you rise on your toes. You will not usually need imaging studies such as x-ray and MRI at first. If the first treatment does not improve the symptoms, your health care provider may recommend these tests. MRI may show inflammation.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many cases of retrocalcaneal and retroachilles bursitis can be treated effectively at home. One of the most important factors is eliminating shoe gear that presses against the back of the heel. Comfortable, supportive footwear and frequently resting the foot will minimize friction at the heel and give the inflammation a chance to subside. These steps, along with other methods to alleviate swelling, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, e.g., ibuprofen), icing the heel, and elevating the foot, are usually successful in treating retrocalcaneal bursitis.
Only if non-surgical attempts at treatment fail, will it make sense to consider surgery. Surgery for retrocalcanel bursitis can include many different procedures. Some of these include removal of the bursa, removing any excess bone at the back of the heel (calcaneal exostectomy), and occasionally detachment and re-attachment of the Achilles tendon. If the foot structure and shape of the heel bone is a primary cause of the bursitis, surgery to re-align the heel bone (calcaneal osteotomy) may be considered. Regardless of which exact surgery is planned, the goal is always to decrease pain and correct the deformity. The idea is to get you back to the activities that you really enjoy. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the exact surgical procedure that is most likely to correct the problem in your case. But if you have to have surgery, you can work together to develop a plan that will help assure success.