The inflammation of the Achilles bursa is not to be confused with the, more common, retrocalcaneal bursitis. Although the retro-calcaneal and Achilles bursae are in the similar region of the heel and their irritation gets treated in almost an identical way, they are two different things.
Bursitis can be caused by an injury, an infection, or a pre-existing condition in which crystals can form in the bursa. Injury. An injury can irritate the tissue inside the bursa and cause inflammation. Doctors say that bursitis caused by an injury usually takes time to develop. The joints, tendons, or muscles that are near the bursae may have been overused. Most commonly, injury is caused by repetitive movements.
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.
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
You should rest from all activities that cause pain or limping. Use crutches/cane until you can walk without pain or limping. Ice. Place a plastic bag with ice on the foot for 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times a day for the first 24-72 hours. Leave the ice off at least 1 1/2 hours between applications. Compression. Lightly wrap an elastic bandage from the toes to mid calf, using even pressure. Wear this until swelling decreases. Loosen the wrap if your toes start to turn blue or feel cold. Elevate. Make sure to elevate the ankle above heart level. To improve symptoms of plantar calcaneal bursitis after the acute phasetry the baked bean tin stretch, using a baked bean tin roll the foot backwards and forwards. 2 minutes in the morning before putting the foot to the floor. 5-10 minutes every evening. Contrast foot baths. 10 minutes warm water. 10 minutes cool water morning and evening (morning may be missed if time is restricted). Stretches. Start with 10 stretches per day, holding the stretch for 30 seconds, then relax and then repeat. Continue this stretch daily until you can no longer feel it pulling on the heel, then progress to stretch. Do 10 per day holding for 30 seconds per stretch. When you can no longer feel it pulling on the heel proceed to stretches. Do 10 per day holding for 30 seconds on every stretch.
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.