Pain at the posterior heel or posterior ankle is most commonly caused by pathology at the posterior calcaneus, the Achilles (calcaneal) tendon, or the associated bursae. The following bursae are
located just superior to the insertion of the Achilles tendon. Subtendinous calcaneal bursa. This bursa (also called the retrocalcaneal bursa), situated anterior (deep) to the Achilles tendon, is
located between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus. Subcutaneous calcaneal bursa. Also called the Achilles bursa, it is found posterior (superficial) to the Achilles tendon, lying between the skin
and the posterior aspect of the distal Achilles tendon. Inflammation of one or both of these bursae can cause pain in the posterior heel and ankle regions.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis can be caused through injury or infection or be can be triggered by certain health conditions. If bursitis develops as a result of injury then it will normally be due to a
repetitive strenuous activity that encourages the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle), which attach to the heel bone via the Achilles tendon, to tighten and shorten from overuse, for
example repetitively wearing high heels, running and even wearing tight shoes that pinch at the back of the heel. This puts more pressure over the bursa as the tendon rubs more tightly over it,
irritating it and triggering a painful inflammatory reaction (swelling). This risk of developing bursitis in this way is greater for those whose jobs or hobbies involve a lot of repetitive movements,
for example carpet fitters and gardeners who spend a lot of time kneeling and so are more at risk of bursitis in the knee. Runners have a greater likelihood of developing bursitis in the hip.
Bursitis can also be brought on by excessive pressure or direct impact trauma, such as banging your elbow or dropping on to your knees. Infection is a less common cause of bursitis and normally only
occurs in people who have a weakened immune system from other health issues. The infection can work its way to the bursa from a cut close to the bursa that has become infected, in these cases the
bursitis is termed as septic bursitis. Certain health conditions can also trigger the development of bursitis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, amongst others.
Pain at the back of the heel, especially when running uphill. Pain may get worse when rising on the toes (standing on tiptoes). Tenderness at the back of heel. Swelling at the back of heel.
Your doctor will check for bursitis by asking questions about your past health and recent activities and by examining the area. If your symptoms are severe or get worse even after treatment, you may
need other tests. Your doctor may drain fluid from the bursa through a needle (aspiration) and test it for infection. Or you may need X-rays, an MRI, or an ultrasound.
Non Surgical Treatment
One of the most effective treatments for infracalcaneal bursitis is to temporarily avoid weight-bearing activities that put stress or strain on your heel bone. PRICE (protection, rest, hot/cold
contrast compresses, compression, and elevation) is another good acute management technique for this foot problem. Changing your footwear is an effective long-term prevention and treatment tool for
infracalcaneal bursitis. Footwear that possess a flat support base, a sufficiently wide toe box to accommodate natural toe splay, and a flexible sole are best for preventing and managing
infracalcaneal bursitis. An integrated approach to this problem usually involves the use of padded socks that help reduce pressure, friction, and inflammation in your affected area. Natural
anti-inflammatory agents can also be helpful in quelling inflammation, reducing pain, and improving treatment times for infracalcaneal bursitis. In rare cases, more aggressive treatment methods may
be required, such as cortisone injections or surgery to drain the bursal sac.
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.