Bursae are fluid-filled sacs found about your joints. They surround the areas where tendons, skin, and muscle tissues meet bones. The lubrication they add helps reduce friction during movement.
Bursitis is an inflammation of your bursae. Inflamed bursae cause pain and discomfort in the affected location. They also limit the ways you can move your joints.
General symptoms of bursitis include:
- pain, inflammation, redness and swelling
- heat may emanate from the painful area
- increased pain in the morning, or after being immobile for extended periods of time
- thickening of your bursae
The most common causes of bursitis are injuries or damage to your bursae. Damage may trigger pain, swelling, and redness in the affected area.
In the foot there is only one naturally occurring bursal sac, which is located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus). However, in response to the constant “micro-trauma” that our feet experience when we walk, the body creates bursal sacs to protect areas of the foot where trauma is occurring. If the trauma continues, the bursal sac (that has formed in order to protect the foot) becomes inflamed and bursitis develops.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is the most common heel bursitis. Retrocalcaneal bursitis is inflammation of the bursa (a small, cushioning sac located where tendons pass over areas of bone around the joints), which lies over your heel (calcaneum) where your Achilles tendon inserts.
Running, jumping, or other repetitive activities can inflame the bursae in your heels. Beginning a strenuous exercise without properly warming up may also be a cause. Shoes that are too tight in the back of the heel can make it worse as it rubs against the bursa.
Rest, pain medication, and icing your joint may relieve your bursitis. However, other treatments may be necessary:
- Antibiotics are necessary in cases in which the bursa is infected.
- Corticosteroids can be used to relieve pain, inflammation, and swelling as long as there is no evidence of any infection in or around the bursa.
- Surgery can be used to remove damaged bursae or drain fluids from the bursae.
- Physical therapy may help relieve pain and other symptoms.