Infracalcaneal bursitis can significantly affect a person?s quality of life and his or her ability to perform activities of daily living, due to pain and impaired gait. This foot health problem may be diagnosed in several ways, including by palpation, or light pressure applied to the affected area by a healthcare practitioner. If the heel pain has existed for a long time, X-ray imaging studies may reveal localized calcification in the infracalcaneal bursa, though this is not always the case. MRI images are sometimes used as a diagnostic tool for this health problem, though MRI studies are considered unnecessary for diagnosis in many cases.
Inflammation of the bursa causes synovial cells to multiply and thereby increases collagen formation and fluid production. A more permeable capillary membrane allows entrance of high protein fluid. The bursal lining may be replaced by granulation tissue followed by fibrous tissue. The bursa becomes filled with fluid, which is often rich in fibrin, and the fluid can become hemorrhagic. One study suggests that this process may be mediated by cytokines, metalloproteases, and cyclooxygenases.
Patients with this condition typically experience pain at the back of the ankle and heel where the Achilles tendon attaches into the heel bone. Pain is typically experienced during activities requiring strong or repetitive calf contractions (often involving end of range ankle movements) such as walking (especially uphill), going up and down stairs, running, jumping or hopping (especially whilst wearing excessively tight shoes). Often pain may be worse with rest after these activities (especially that night or the following morning). The pain associated with this condition may 'warm up' with activity in the initial stages of injury. As the condition progresses, patients may experience symptoms that increase during sport or activity, affecting performance. In severe cases, patients may walk with a limp or be unable to weight bear on the affected leg. Other symptoms may include tenderness on firmly touching the affected bursa and swelling around the Achilles region.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for bursitis may include the following. X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. Ultrasound. A diagnostic technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs. Aspiration. A procedure that involves removal of fluid from the swollen bursa to exclude infection or gout as causes of bursitis. Blood tests. Lab tests that are done to confirm or eliminate other conditions.
Non Surgical Treatment
Long Term Treatment must be directed towards eliminating the abnormal tilting of the heel, regardless of its cause. If this is delayed, the usual results are the pain and swelling becomes worse, chronic, and debilitating. Eventually, painful calcifications and bone spur formations may occur on the back of the heel, along with tears in the Achilles Tendon. These are serious problems that may require surgical intervention. In order to eliminate abnormal heel tilt, the foot must be re-balanced. Controlling and reducing the biomechanical foot defects that are causing the heel to tilt best accomplish this. The "Gold Standard" of medical care (that treatment most used by doctors and therapists) to help eliminate pain, inflammation, and swelling at the back of the heel is orthotics.
Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.