What Is Retrocalcaneal Bursitis?
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is closely related to Haglund’s Deformity (or “pump bumps”). If you have a bony enlargement on the back of the heel that rubs the Achilles tendon, it can cause the formation of a bursa (small fluid filled sack). It usually happens in athletes as shoes rub against the heel. The bursa can aggravated by the stitching of a heel counter in the shoe as well. It can make wearing shoes and exercising difficult. Another term used for this condition is “pump bump” because it can frequently occur with wearing high heels as well.
“Retro-” means behind and “calcaneus” means heel bone. So this is precisely where the bursitis (inflammation of the bursa) develops. Once it begins and you develop bursitis between the heel bone and the Achilles tendon, it can become even more painful. When most people first notice retrocalcaneal bursitis, it is because the skin, bursa and other soft tissues at the back of the heel gets irritated as the knot of bone rubs against the heel counter in shoes. The back of the shoes create friction and pressure that aggravate the bony enlargement and pinches the bursa while you walk
Symptoms of Retrocalcaneal Bursitis
You might have Retrocalcaneal Bursitis if you notice any of the following symptoms: •You have pain or tenderness at the back of the heel where the Achille’s tendon attaches. •Have swelling near the attachment of the tendon to the heel bone.
•You have noticed a slowly growing bump on the back of the heel.
•The back of the heel turns red after getting rubbed in shoes.
•The back of the heel hurts worse when you run, walk up hill or wear high heels.
What Causes Retrocalcaneal Bursitis?
For the most part, it is a genetic condition. You develop it by inheriting a foot type that is prone to the mechanical irritation that leads to the problem. If you have this particular foot type and wear shoes that rub and irritate the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the Achilles tendon attaches, then you are even more likely to develop this type of bursitis. The contributing factors include a supinated foot type, a heel bone with a prominence (or pointed shape that stick out toward the tendon) at the back, a tight Achilles tendon (referred to as Equinus by doctors), and a high arch. All of these factors simply make it more likely that the back of the heel will press against the shoe and rub. As the tendon gets rubbed the wrong way, the bursa starts to develop and fill with fluid. This response is really your body’s way of protecting the tendon from damage, but it backfires. The friction from all that rubbing causes the bursa to become inflamed and swell. This causes the bump to become red, hot and stick out even further. Much like a sore thumb, it then gets irritated by even the softest shoes.
Diagnosis of Retrocalcaneal Bursitis
When you suspect you have retrocalcaneal bursitis, your foot doctor will begin by taking a complete history of the condition. A physical exam will also be performed. X-rays are usually taken on the first visit as well to determine the shape of the heel bone, joint alignment in the rearfoot, and to look for calcium deposits in the Achilles tendon. The history, exam and x-rays may sufficient for your foot surgeon to get an idea of the treatment that will be required. In some cases, it may be necessary to get an ultrasound or MRI to further evaluate the Achilles tendon or its associated bursa. While calcium deposits can show up on xray, the inflammation in the tendon and bursa will show up much better on ultrasound and MRI. The results of these tests can usually be explained on the first visit. You can then have a full understanding of how the problem started, what you can do to treat prevent it from getting worse/ You will also know which treatment will be most helpful in making your heel pain go away.
Treatment of Retrocalcaneal Bursitis:
Non-surgical Treatments Surgery should always be the last option. We believe that biologic treatments that preserve normal anatomy are very helpful, particularly for runner, athletes, and active professionals with buy schedules. All non-surgical approaches attempt to calm down the inflammation of the bursa and Achilles tendon. They do not address the bony bump, but they can substantially reduce and shrink the inflamed soft tissue. Some non-surgical treatments include:
• Oral Anti-inflammatory Medications. NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as Motrin, Aleve, and Steroids (like prednisone) may help control the pain and stop the inflammation.
• Topical Anti-inflammatory Medications. NSAID’s in cream or lotion form may be applied directly to the inflamed area. With these, there is no concern for stomach upset or other problems associated with oral medication.
• Ice. Ice can applied be applied right to the red, inflamed area and help calm it down. Try applying a podiatrist-approved ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes of each hour. Just make sure you don’t put ice directly against the skin.
• Exercises. Stretching exercises may relieve some of the tension in the Achilles tendon that started the problem. If you have Equinus Deformity (or a tight heel cord) this is critical to prevent it from coming back again.
• Heel lifts. Heel lifts placed inside the shoe can decrease the pressure on the Achilles tendon. Remember, pressure and friction cause the bump to become inflamed.
• Heel pads. Placing gel padding to cushion the Achilles tendon (at the back of the heel) can also help reduce irritation from shoes.
• Shoe modification. Wearing open-backed shoes, or shoes that have soft backs. This will also help stop the irritation.
• Physical therapy. Physical therapy, such as ultrasound, massage and stretching can all reduce the inflammation without surgery.
• Orthotic devices. Custom arch supports known as foot orthotics control abnormal motion in the foot that can allow the heel to tilt over and rub against the heel counter. Orthotics can decrease symptoms and help prevent it from happening again.
• Immobilization. In some cases, a walking cast boot or plaster/fiberglass cast is necessary to take pressure off the bursa and tendon, while allowing the area to calm down an
• ESWT. Extra-corporeal Shock Wave Therapy uses high energy sound waves to break up diseased tissue in the bursa and Achilles tendon and stimulate your own bodies healing processes to repair the diseased area. It may be done in the office or in a an outpatient surgery center. There is no incision and no stitches with ESWT.
• PRP. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is a therapeutic injection. A small sample of blood is drawn from the patient and the healing factors found in the platelets are concentrated in a centrifuge. By injecting the concentrated solution right into the damaged Achilles tendon, a powerful healing can be stimulated. This can be done in the office. No hospital or surgery required
When Is Surgery Needed?
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.
Prevention of Retrocalcaneal Bursitis
Once your pain and inflammation is gone, you can prevent retrocalcaneal bursitis deformity by:
•Wearing the best shoes for your foot type. You should high-heels and pumps if possible.
•Perform frequent Achilles tendon stretching exercises to prevent it from becoming tight agian
•Avoiding running uphill when training. Try to run on softer surfaces and avoid concrete.