Achilles tendon bursitis occurs mainly in young women but can develop in men. Walking in a way that repeatedly presses the soft tissue behind the heel against the stiff back support of a shoe can
cause or aggravate the bursitis. Shoes that taper sharply inward toward the posterior heel (such as high-heeled shoes) can cause irritating pressure that leads to the development of this bursitis.
Normally, only one bursa is in the heel, between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus). This bursa may become inflamed, swollen, and painful, resulting in anterior Achilles tendon
bursitis. Abnormal pressure and foot dysfunction can cause a protective bursa to form between the Achilles tendon and the skin. This bursa may also become inflamed, swollen, and painful, resulting in
posterior Achilles tendon bursitis. Any condition that puts extra strain on the Achilles tendon can cause anterior Achilles tendon bursitis. Injuries to the heel and diseases such as rheumatoid
arthritis can also cause it.
Bursitis, tendinitis, and other soft tissue rheumatic syndromes typically result from one or more factors. These include: Play or work activities that cause overuse or injury to the joint areas
Incorrect posture Stress on the soft tissues from an abnormal or poorly positioned joint or bone (such as leg length differences or arthritis in a joint) Other diseases or conditions (rheumatoid
arthritis, gout, psoriasis, thyroid disease, or an unusual drug reaction) Infection.
Symptoms include pain at the back of the heel, especially when running uphill or on soft surfaces. There will be tenderness and swelling at the back of the heel which may make it difficult to wear
certain shoes. When pressing in with the fingers both sides are the back of the heel a spongy resistance may be felt.
The diagnosis is based on the symptoms and an examination. For anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, doctors use x-rays to rule out a fracture of the heel bone or damage to the heel bone caused by
rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis can be resolved with self-care that is focused on reducing inflammation and eliminating activities or positions that aggravate the bursa. Some cases, however,
may become more serious and require more medical interventions. Rarely, surgery is needed. Following the R.I.C.E. formula, or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, is often sufficient to treat
aseptic bursitis. Rest. People with retrocalcaneal bursitis should avoid activities that irritate the bursa, such as jogging or excessive walking. Ice. Applying a cold compress to the back of the
ankle for about 20 minutes two or three times a day may help alleviate symptoms and decrease swelling. Compression. An elastic medical bandage (e.g. Ace? bandage) wrapped around the affected heel and
ankle can help control swelling. Elevating the affected heel. Sitting down with the leg elevated on a stool or lying down with the foot elevated on a pillow can help reduce blood flow to the area,
thereby reducing inflammation.
Surgery. Though rare, particularly challenging cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis might warrant a bursectomy, in which the troublesome bursa is removed from the back of the ankle. Surgery can be
effective, but operating on this boney area can cause complications, such as trouble with skin healing at the incision site. In addition to removing the bursa, a doctor may use the surgery to treat
another condition associated with the retrocalcaneal bursitis. For example, a surgeon may remove a sliver of bone from the back of the heel to alter foot mechanics and reduce future friction. Any
bone spurs located where the Achilles attaches to the heel may also be removed. Regardless of the conservative treatment that is provided, it is important to wait until all pain and swelling around
the back of the heel is gone before resuming activities. This may take several weeks. Once symptoms are gone, a patient may make a gradual return to his or her activity level before their bursitis
symptoms began. Returning to activities that cause friction or stress on the bursa before it is healed will likely cause bursitis symptoms to flare up again.