Retrocalcaneal bursitis is sometimes difficult to differentiate from Achilles tendinitis, at least symptomatically. Both are most uncomfortable during the push-off phase of gait, are most severely
painful in the morning and with walking after sitting for a period of time, and generally worsen with activity. Most practitioners make the distinction between the two simply on the basis of location
of pain and tenderness. Generally, Achilles tendinitis is felt an inch or two higher than this form of bursitis.
The calcaneal bursa can become inflamed in patients with heel spurs or in patients with poor-fitting shoes (eg, high heels). Inflammation can occur secondarily from Achilles tendinitis, especially in
young athletes. Patients exhibit tenderness to palpation of the bursa anterior to the Achilles tendon on both the medial and lateral aspects. They have pain with movement, which is worsened with
Symptoms of bursitis include pain in the heel, especially with walking, running, or when the area is touched. The skin over the back of the heel may be red and warm, and the pain may be worse with
attempted toe rise (standing on tippy-toes).
On physical examination, patients have tenderness at the site of the inflamed bursa. If the bursa is superficial, physical examination findings are significant for localized tenderness, warmth,
edema, and erythema of the skin. Reduced active range of motion with preserved passive range of motion is suggestive of bursitis, but the differential diagnosis includes tendinitis and muscle injury.
A decrease in both active and passive range of motion is more suggestive of other musculoskeletal disorders. In patients with chronic bursitis, the affected limb may show disuse atrophy and weakness.
Tendons may also be weakened and tender.
Non Surgical Treatment
Gradual and progressive stretching of the Achilles tendon. Exercises to strengthen and support the ankle. Rest or reduced weight bearing activities. Immobilisation in a cast for 4-6 weeks for severe
cases. Ice. Proper fitting and supportive footwear. Massage. Joint mobilisation. Anti-inflammatory medications: only if this does not have adverse results with the patient's current medication. Heel
pads and heel lifts. Footwear Advice. Strapping and padding Orthoses/innersoles. The orthotics prescribed and designed by the podiatrists at the Heel and Arch Pain Clinic (affiliated with Beyond
Podiatry) are made to align the foot in the correct posture. Surgery is indicated in severe cases when conservative treatment has not resolved the problem.
Only if non-surgical attempts at treatment fail, will it make sense to consider surgery. Surgery for retrocalcanel bursitis can include many different procedures. Some of these include removal of the
bursa, removing any excess bone at the back of the heel (calcaneal exostectomy), and occasionally detachment and re-attachment of the Achilles tendon. If the foot structure and shape of the heel bone
is a primary cause of the bursitis, surgery to re-align the heel bone (calcaneal osteotomy) may be considered. Regardless of which exact surgery is planned, the goal is always to decrease pain and
correct the deformity. The idea is to get you back to the activities that you really enjoy. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the exact surgical procedure that is most likely to correct the
problem in your case. But if you have to have surgery, you can work together to develop a plan that will help assure success.