Swelling and inflammation near a joint may be a sign of bursitis, a condition that involves buildup of liquid and inflammation in a bursa sac that cushions a joint. This condition has earned some interesting names over the years: housemaid?s knee, student?s elbow, and tailor?s bottom, to name a few. Simply put, bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa and buildup of fluid in the bursa sac. A bursa is a thin, slippery sac found around a joint that serves to reduce friction between bone and surrounding soft tissue, such as skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons. A bursa sac is made up of a synovial membrane, or synovium, that produces and contains synovial fluid. Excessive friction, a trauma, or other condition can irritate the synovium and cause it to become inflamed. The inflamed synovium will thicken and produce excess synovial fluid, and can cause symptoms such as localized swelling, skin redness and warmth, tenderness and pain. Of the approximately 160 bursae in the body, only a handful of them usually cause bursitis. These usual suspects are found in the knee, shoulder, elbow, and hip. Less frequently, bursitis may also occur in the heel, wrist, buttocks and big toe.
Overtraining in a runner (eg, excessive increases in miles or intensity). Tight or poorly fitting shoes that, because of a restrictive heel counter, exert excessive pressure on the posterior heel and ankle
Haglund deformity, causing impingement between the increased posterior superior calcaneal prominence and the Achilles tendon during dorsiflexion. More recent research suggests that a misaligned subtalar joint axis (measured in terms of joint inclination and deviation) in relation to the Achilles tendon can result in an asymmetrical force load on the tendon, disrupting normal biomechanics. This altered joint axis is associated with an increased risk for Achilles pathologies, including bursitis.
Pain at the back of the heel, especially when running uphill. Pain may get worse when rising on the toes (standing on tiptoes). Tenderness at the back of heel. Swelling at the back of heel.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may demonstrate bursal inflammation, but this modality probably does not offer much more information than that found by careful physical examination. Theoretically, MRI could help the physician to determine whether the inflammation is within the subcutaneous bursa, the subtendinous bursa, or even within the tendon itself, however, such testing is generally not necessary. Ultrasonography may be a potentially useful tool for diagnosing pathologies of the Achilles tendon.
Non Surgical Treatment
When retrocalcaneal bursitis is associated with tendonitis, it may be necessary to immobilize the ankle for several weeks to allow the Achilles tendon to heal. This can be done by placing a cast on the ankle, which limits movement and allows the tendon to rest. Walking boots may also be used to limit ankle movement and allow people with retrocalcaneal bursitis to avoid putting pressure on the inflamed bursae.
Contact your physician if bursitis pain is disabling (when movement of the joint is largely or entirely restricted), if the pain doesn?t subside after a week of self-care, or if the joint is red and swollen. Also call your doctor if you develop a fever, which could signal infectious bursitis-a condition that especially can afflict the elbow. Except for the fever, symptoms resemble other forms of bursitis, but infectious bursitis requires immediate medical attention.