A properly functioning heel is essential to normal, smooth, and painless gait. The heel is the first area to strike the ground during normal gait, which means it takes the brunt of the stress incurred during walking and running activities. Of course, this also means that the heel is highly prone to injury. One such injury is called heel bursitis.
Bursitis can develop for several reasons, including repetitively engaging in the same motion, or example, lifting objects above your head for work. Putting a lot of pressure on a bursa for an extended period of time. Leaning on your elbows or kneeling (for example, to lay carpet) can cause bursitis in the elbows or knees. If you sit for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces, you may develop bursitis in your hip. Wearing shoes with a stiff back that rubs against the back of the ankle can cause Achilles tendon bursitis. Trauma. The bursae at the knee and elbow are close to the surface of the skin, and if you fall directly on your elbow or the knee, you can rupture, injure or puncture a bursa. Infection. Known as septic bursitis, it?s the result of bacteria infecting a bursa. It can occur from an infection traveling from another site or following an accident that ruptures the bursa. Even scraping the skin on your elbow or getting a mosquito bite that breaks the skin near the olecranon bursa (near the elbow) can lead to bursitis. Other joint disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout, or health conditions.
Your feet are extremely resilient and are designed to stand up to the pressures of day-to-day living. In some cases, though, foot structures may break down when subjected to chronic stress associated with prolonged periods of weight-bearing activity on concrete, asphalt, or other hard surfaces (especially when your footwear does not allow for appropriate weight distribution). Foot problems, including infracalcaneal bursitis, are often exacerbated by poorly designed footwear, and pressure, impact, and shear forces can damage your feet over time. Bursal sacs are intended to minimize this damage, but sometimes the bursa itself becomes inflamed.
The doctor will discuss your symptoms and visually assess the bones and soft tissue in your foot. If a soft tissue injury is suspected, an MRI will likely be done to view where and how much the damage is in your ankle. An x-ray may be recommended to rule out a bone spur or other foreign body as the cause of your ankle pain. As the subcutaneous bursa is close to the surface of the skin, it is more susceptible to septic, or infectious, bursitis caused by a cut or scrape at the back of the heel. Septic bursitis required antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Your doctor will be able to determine whether there is an infection or not by drawing a small sample of the bursa fluid with a needle.
Non Surgical Treatment
With posterior Achilles tendon bursitis, treatment is aimed at reducing the inflammation and adjusting the foot's position in the shoe to relieve pressure and motion on the back of the heel. Foam rubber or felt heel pads can be placed in the shoe to eliminate pressure by elevating the heel. Placing protective gel padding over the painful bursa or stretching the back part of the shoe and placing padding around the inflamed bursa may help. Sometimes a special shoe, such as a running shoe designed to stabilize the midsole heel, devices placed in the shoe (orthoses), or both can help to control abnormal foot and heel motion contributing to the posterior heel irritation. Other shoes have padding that reduces irritation to the posterior heel and Achilles tendon.
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).