There is a thick walled fluid filled bursa between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneal bone. The color Doppler images show hypervascularity of the bursal wall. A minimal amount of fluid in the retrocalcaneal bursa can often be found. A retrocalcaneal bursitis is caused by friction of the Achilles tendon over the upper part of the calcaneal bone. It is often an overuse injury found in athletes.
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.
Pain and tenderness are common symptoms. If the affected joint is close to the skin, as with the shoulder, knee, elbow, or Achilles tendon, swelling and redness are seen and the area may feel warm to the touch. The bursae around the hip joint are deeper, and swelling is not obvious. Movement may be limited and is painful. In the shoulder, it may be difficult to raise the arm out from the side of the body. Putting on a jacket or combing the hair becomes a troublesome activity. In acute bursitis symptoms appear suddenly, with chronic bursitis, pain, tenderness, and limited movement reappear after exercise or strain.
Your GP or therapist will be able to diagnose you by both listening to your history and examining you. No X-rays or further investigation should be needed to confirm diagnosis but may be requested to check for any underlying health conditions that may have triggered the bursitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Despite appropriate physiotherapy management, some patients with retrocalcaneal bursitis do not improve adequately. When this occurs the treating physiotherapist or doctor can advise on the best course of management. This may include further investigations such as an ultrasound, X-Ray, MRI or CT scan, pharmaceutical intervention, corticosteroid and anaesthetic injection into the retrocalcaneal bursa, draining of the bursa, or review by a specialist or podiatrist who can advise on any treatment that may be appropriate to improve the condition.
Do not run if you have pain. When you begin running again, avoid running fast uphill or downhill until the tendon is fully healed. Start exercising when caregivers say that it is OK. Slowly start exercise such as bicycling when caregivers say it is OK. When doing exercises that put pressure on the ankles, such as running or walking, exercise on flat, even surfaces. Avoid doing these exercises on very hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. Stretch before exercising. Always warm up your muscles and stretch gently before exercising. Do cool down exercises when you are finished. This will loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your heel. Wear heel protectors. Use soft foam or felt heel pads (wedges or cups) to help decrease pressure against your heel. Ask your caregiver which heel pads are the best for you. Wear well-fitting shoes. Buy running or exercise shoes that support and fit your feet well. Do not wear low-cut shoes. Talk to your caregiver or go to a special exercise footwear store to get well-fitting athletic shoes. Ask your caregiver if you should wear specially-made shoe inserts called orthotics (or-THOT-iks). Orthotics can line up your feet in your shoes to help you run, walk and exercise correctly.