Overview

Retrocalcaneal bursitis is a painful inflammation of the soft tissues at the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the back of the heel bone. The retrocalcaneus identifies the ?retro? or behind and ?calcaneus? or heel bone. Bursitis relates to inflammation of a bursa in the retrocalcaneal region. A bursa anatomically is a fluid filled sack that is located around tendinous attachments in the body. The retrocalcaneal bursa as identified in the photo 1 protects the Achilles tendon just prior to its insertion to the retrocalcaneal region. The retrocalcaneal bursa cushions the Achilles tendon and normally allows pain free motion of the Achilles tendon over the calcaneus.

Causes

A bursa acts as a cushion and lubricant between tendons or muscles sliding over bone. There are bursas around most large joints in the body, including the ankle. The retrocalcaneal bursa is located in the back of the ankle by the heel. It is where the large Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Repeated or too much use of the ankle can cause this bursa to become irritated and inflamed. Possible causes are too much walking, running, or jumping. This condition is usually linked to Achilles tendinitis. Sometimes retrocalcaneal bursitis may be mistaken for Achilles tendinitis. Risks for this condition include starting an aggressive workout schedule, or suddenly increasing activity level without the right conditioning.

Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of bursitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Bursitis can cause pain, localized tenderness, and limited motion. Swelling and redness may occur if the inflamed bursa is close to the surface (superficial). Chronic bursitis may involve repeated attacks of pain, swelling, and tenderness, which may lead to the deterioration of muscles and a limited range of motion. The symptoms of bursitis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis

Bursitis is usually diagnosed after a careful physical examination and a full review of your medical history. If you garden and spend a lot of time on your knees, or if you have rheumatoid arthritis, tell your doctor, this information can be very helpful. During the physical exam, he or she will press on different spots around the joint that hurts. The goal is to locate the specific bursa that is causing the problem. The doctor will also test your range of motion in the affected joint. Other tests usually aren?t required to diagnose bursitis, but your doctor may suggest an MRI, X-ray or ultrasound to rule out other potential causes of pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatments should involve decreasing swelling, relieving pain and stress on the Achilles, correcting any biomechanical dysfunction (over-pronation or flat feet), treating scar tissue, and then restoring strength and movement. If you are performing an activity that could cause further trauma to the bursa, it is recommended that you protect the area with padding and/or proper footwear to prevent further irritation or damage.

Surgical Treatment

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.

Prevention

Contact your physician if bursitis pain is disabling (when movement of the joint is largely or entirely restricted), if the pain doesn?t subside after a week of self-care, or if the joint is red and swollen. Also call your doctor if you develop a fever, which could signal infectious bursitis-a condition that especially can afflict the elbow. Except for the fever, symptoms resemble other forms of bursitis, but infectious bursitis requires immediate medical attention.

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