Retrocalcaneal brusitis, also known as bursitis of the Achilles tendon, is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the bursa, the sack filled with fluid, that is situated at the back of the calcaneous, or heel bone. It is often mistaken for Achilles tendonitis, and it typically occurs in athletes who participate in frequent running or walking. Although painful, it can be easily treated through a variety of means such as prescription medication and simple lifestyle remedies that can easily be accomplished at home.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is characterized by pain and tenderness of the heel, especially when running, walking or even standing. The pain may radiate throughout the heel and be incredibly painful to simply touch. The pain is often exacerbated when you attempt to stand on the tips of your toes as well. Appearance-wise, the heel may become red and warm to the touch and look swollen. If you press down upon the affected heel, it may feel spongy. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult with your doctor to discuss the best possible course of treatment.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is easily treatable within the comfort of your home. The first step is to stay off the affected foot as long as possible to allow it time to heal. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can be used to treat the pain and swelling associated with the condition. If you have to walk on the heel, use a custom orthotic device such as a wedge in the heel to alleviate pressure. Icing the heel when not in use can provide relief as well, especially if the skin surrounding the area is incredibly warm to the touch. Finally, physical therapy can be utilized to help retain mobility of the affected foot and lower the risk of recurrence.
Although most cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis can be treated without medical interference, you may choose to turn to a doctor for help, especially if conventional and at-home methods fail to alleviate the pain and swelling. This typically involves an injection of corticosteroids into the affected heel to alleviate pain and swelling. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the bursa that have become inflamed. If the condition occurs as the result of Achilles tendonitis, your doctor may suggest you keep the heel wrapped in a cast to decrease mobility and allow it adequate time to heal.
Injections of corticosteroids are relatively safe, though the potential for side effects is great. While oral corticosteroids have a wide variety of side effects, the primary concern for corticosteroids that are injected include a weakening of the affected joint, as well as localized redness and swelling. After receiving an injection, you should remain off the foot for as long as possible, though the recommended time is approximately 48 hours. You should discuss with your doctor the potential for any side effects, mild or serious, before you begin treatment.
If treated properly and carefully, retrocalcaneal bursitis typically resolves within a few weeks. If treatment is delayed, applied improperly or if the affected heel is frequently or excessively used so as to prevent healing, the pain and inflammation can last much longer and healing could be far more difficult. Once the condition has healed, prevent recurrence by applying proper stretching techniques to the Achilles heel, especially before undertaking any strenuous exercise such as jogging or running.