A Foot to Stand On

Do You Have Heel Pain? Get Checked For Bursitis

by Grace Ortiz

If you are dealing with heel pain, you may assume that's a common disorder, like plantar fasciitis. However, you should visit a podiatrist for a firm diagnosis, as other heel issues can have similar symptoms. For example, heel bursitis, or retrocalcaneal bursitis, can have symptoms like heel tenderness and swelling. Read on to learn more about heel bursitis and how to treat it.

What is it and Who Does it Usually Affect?

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions for joints so that ligaments, tendons, and muscles can glide over bone without friction. There is a bursa near your heel bone and Achilles tendon called the retrocalcaneal bursa. If this bursa becomes irritated, you can develop bursitisor—inflammation of the bursa.

Bursitis can happen to anyone. For instance, if you suffer an ankle injury, you could develop heel bursitis. However, some people are more prone to this condition. For example, athletes that wear improper shoes can develop heel bursitis. People with gout or rheumatoid arthritis are also prone to heel bursitis.

How Can You Treat it?

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to treat bursitis. First, your podiatrist will order imaging tests, like an x-ray or MRI to determine if the bursa is the root of the problem. For instance, an MRI can rule out conditions like Achilles tendinitis.

If you do have bursitis, the good news is that a lot of conservative treatments can often heal this issue. Your podiatrist can fit you with orthotics, which can help take off additional stress on the bursa. Sometimes, a tight Achilles tendon can place extra pressure on the bursa, so doing simple stretches, like toe-to-wall stretches or calf stretches, can relax the tendon and in turn, relieve the pressure on the bursa.

If you have a lot of inflammation, your podiatrist might recommend corticosteroid injections. These injections can reduce inflammation, stiffness, and pain. In rare cases, and if you don't see any improvement with conservative treatments, your podiatrist might recommend surgery. Surgery for heel bursitis can be minimally invasive with arthroscopic decompression. An arthroscope is a thin instrument with a lens that is inserted through a small incision. The arthroscope can be used to open up the retrocalcaneal space for the bursa and to remove any inflamed tissue. One study found that arthroscopic decompression is an effective procedure and has a short recovery time.

For more information about heel pain treatments, or other heel disorders, reach out to a podiatrist in your area.