Achilles tendon bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) located either between the skin of the back of the heel and the Achilles tendon (posterior Achilles tendon bursitis) or in front of the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the heel bone (anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, retrocalcaneal bursitis). Typical symptoms include swelling and warmth and a tender spot at the back of the heel. The diagnosis is based on symptoms, an examination, and sometimes x-rays. Treatment is aimed at relieving the inflammation and, depending on the location of the Achilles tendon bursitis, eliminating the pressure on the back of the heel. The Achilles tendon is the tendon that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis is often associated with formation of a bone prominence called Haglund deformity or ?pump bump? on the heel bone. Anterior Achilles tendon bursitis is also called Albert disease or retromalleolar bursitis.
Bursitis occurs when the bursae become irritated or infected, often causing pain on movement. When infection is involved, medical intervention is necessary to fight the underlying infection and prevent it from spreading, when infection is not involved, prompt medical attention can prevent the condition from becoming worse over time.
In retrocalcaneal bursitis, pain at the back of the heel is the main complaint from patients. Pain may worsen when tip-toeing, running uphill, jumping or hopping. Often, those who are accustomed to wearing high-heeled shoes on a long-term basis may also complain of pain at the back of the heel when switching to flat shoes. This is because when in high-heeled shoes, the calf muscle and the Achilles tendon are in a shortened position. Switching to flat shoes would cause an increased stretch to the calf muscle and Achilles tendon, irritating the Achilles tendon and the retrocalcaneal bursa. Other symptoms may include redness and swelling at the back of the heel.
Before making a diagnosis of retrocalcaneal bursitis, a doctor must rule out other possible problems, such as arthritis, a fracture or tumor. A doctor also will try to determine if the Achilles tendon itself is a source of pain. To make a diagnosis, a doctor will use some or all of the diagnostic tools below Patient interview. A doctor will ask a patient about medical history, and to describe the onset of his or her symptoms, the pattern of pain and swelling, and how symptoms affect lifestyle. For example, doctors may ask patients what types of shoes they wear and what they do for exercise. A patient's reported symptoms are important to diagnosis and treatment. The doctor will also ask what home treatments have helped the condition. Physical exam. A doctor will examine the patient's foot, noting swelling, tenderness and pain points, and range of motion. The doctor also may ask the patient to point and flex the feet and stand on his or her toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
During the initial acute phase of the condition, patients should apply ice to the back of the heel for 15 to 20 minutes and follow the R.I.C.E.R regime. Avoid activities that cause pain. Gradual progressive stretching of the calf muscle and Achilles tendon is also advocated. Changing the footwear. Wearing an open-backed shoe may help relieve pressure on the affected region. For those whose symptoms were caused by a sudden change from wearing high-heeled shoes to flat shoes, the temporary use of footwear with a heel height in between may be helpful. Inserting a heel cup in the shoe may help to raise the inflamed region slightly above the shoe?s restricting heel counter and relieve the pain. It is advisable to also insert the heel cup into the other shoe to avoid any leg-leg discrepancies that can lead to other problems. Training frequency and intensity should be gradually progressed with adequate rest between trainings.
Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.