Bursa is a fluid filled sac of tissue that is often found around the bony prominences over which tendons and soft tissues rub. This therefore helps the tendons to glide with least amount of friction. Retrocalcaneal bursa is found behind the heel under the Achilles tendon. Retrotendoneal bursa is found on the back of the attachment of the tendon where the shoe rubs on the skin. This can cause swelling, pain and difficulty in footwear. Sometimes there is a bony prominence on the heel bone that predisposes to this condition (Haglund?s deformity). Treatment of this can be modification of footwear. However surgery is often required which involves excision of the bursa and also the bony prominence on the heel bone.
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.
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.
Diagnosis is first by clinical suspicion of symptoms. This can be mistaken for gout or infection especially in the big toe region. A diagnosis of bursitis is usually used in combination of the underlying cause, for instance a bunion deformity, Haglund’s deformity, or Heel Spur Syndrome. Many times the cause needs to be addressed to rid the problem of bursitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
When retrocalcaneal bursitis is associated with tendonitis, it may be necessary to immobilize the ankle for several weeks to allow the Achilles tendon to heal. This can be done by placing a cast on the ankle, which limits movement and allows the tendon to rest. Walking boots may also be used to limit ankle movement and allow people with retrocalcaneal bursitis to avoid putting pressure on the inflamed bursae.
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.