Bursitis accounts for 0.4% of all visits to primary care clinics. The most common locations of bursitis are the subdeltoid, olecranon, ischial, trochanteric, and prepatellar bursae. The incidence of
bursitis is higher in athletes, reaching levels as high as 10% in runners. Approximately 85% of cases of septic superficial bursitis occur in men. A French study aimed at assessing the prevalence of
knee bursitis in the working population found that most cases occurred in male workers whose occupations involved heavy workloads and frequent kneeling. Mortality in patients with bursitis is very
low. The prognosis is good, with the vast majority of patients receiving outpatient follow-up and treatment.
There are several factors which can lead to a person developing retrocalcaneal bursitis. In athletes, especially runners, overtraining, sudden excessive increase in running mileage may lead to
retrocalcaneal bursitis. Tight or ill-fitting shoes can be another causative factor as they can produce excessive pressure at the back of the heel due to restrictive heel counter. A person with an
excessively prominent posterosuperior aspect of the heel bone (Haglund deformity) may also have a higher predisposition to retrocalcaneal bursitis. In such individuals, pain would be reproduced when
the ankle goes into dorsiflexion.
Symptoms of bursitis usually occur after rest and relaxation. Upon activity there is usually more intense pain in the area of the bursa. The common areas to have a bursitis in the foot are in the
bottom of the heel, behind the heel near the attachment of the Achilles Tendon as well as along the side of a bunion. A bursa may also form in multiple areas especially along the metatarsal heads, or
"ball" of your foot. You may actually feel the sac like fluid when rubbing the area of pain.
Diagnosis is first by clinical suspicion of symptoms. This can be mistaken for gout or infection especially in the big toe region. A diagnosis of bursitis is usually used in combination of the
underlying cause, for instance a bunion deformity, Haglund's deformity, or Heel Spur Syndrome. Many times the cause needs to be addressed to rid the problem of bursitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are a variety of treatments for bursitis of the heel. Bursitis on the bottom of your heel (which is called infracalcaneal bursitis) is common in heels with thinning fat pads. Gel heel cushions
or custom made orthotics (that have a horse-shoe cut and extra foam in the heel) can be lifesavers in reducing the pain. For bursitis of the posterior heel (retrocalcaneal bursitis), try to avoid
going barefoot and to reduce the stress on the Achilles tendon by not over flexing your heel, the tighter your Achilles becomes, the more you compress the bursa sacs of the posterior heel. Heel lifts
can help this, or wearing shoes with elevated heels (note that this method is not sanctioning high heels, as high heels can provide little comfort or support and usually are tight in the areas where
your bursitis is most inflamed). Products such as AirHeel made by Aircast can help massage the bottom and back of the heel, helping to decrease pain.
Bursectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove an inflamed or infected bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tissues of the body. Because retrocalcaneal bursitis can
cause chronic inflammation, pain and discomfort, bursectomy may be used as a treatment for the condition when it is persistent and cannot be relived with other treatments. During this procedure, a
surgeon makes small incisions so that a camera may be inserted into the joint. This camera is called an arthroscope. Another small incision is made so that surgical instruments can be inserted to
remove the inflamed bursa.