Janey Lindau

Feet Trouble Data Base

Bursitis Of The Foot Anatomy


Retrocalcaneal bursitis is an inflammation or infection of the bursae at the back of the heel bone. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints and prevent the bones from becoming injured due to friction. Because this condition can cause pain and difficulty moving, getting treatment is important. There are several retrocalcaneal bursitis treatment options available. Patients and physicians should work together to determine the best treatment based on the symptoms and severity of the condition.


Feet are extremely resilient and are designed to stand up to the pressures of day-to-day living. In some cases, though, foot structures may break down when subjected to chronic stress associated with long periods of weight-bearing activity on concrete, asphalt, or other hard surfaces (especially when footwear does not allow for proper weight distribution). Foot problems, including infracalcaneal bursitis, are often made worse by poorly designed footwear, and pressure, impact, and shear forces can damage the feet over time. Bursal sacs are intended to minimize this damage, but sometimes the bursa itself becomes inflamed. A rapid increase in physical activity levels or thinning of the heel?s protective fat pad are factors that may contribute to infracalcaneal bursitis. Other possible causes of infracalcaneal bursitis include blunt force trauma. Arthritic conditions. Acute or chronic infection. The following factors may increase a person?s risk of bursitis, including infracalcaneal bursitis. Poor conditioning. Exposure to cold weather. Participating in contact sports. Having a previous history of bursitis in any joint. Heel striking when running, especially in conventional running shoes with heel elevation.


When the bursa becomes inflamed after an injury, symptoms usually develop suddenly. When the bursa develops without an injury, symptoms may develop gradually. With both posterior and anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, symptoms usually include swelling and warmth at the back of the heel. A minimally red, swollen, tender spot develops on the back of the heel. When the inflamed bursa enlarges, it appears as a red lump under the skin of the heel and causes pain at and above the heel. If posterior Achilles tendon bursitis becomes chronic, the swelling may become hard, fluid-filled, and red or flesh-colored.


Medical examination is not necessarily required in light cases where the tenderness is minimal. In all cases where smooth improvement is not experienced, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible to exclude a (partial) rupture of the Achilles tendon or rupture of the soleus muscle. This situation is best determined by use of ultrasound scanning, as a number of injuries requiring treatment can easily be overlooked during a clinical examination (Ultrasonic image). Ultrasound scanning enables an evaluation of the extent of the change in the tendon, inflammation of the tendon (tendinitis), development of cicatricial tissue (tendinosis), calcification, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tendon (peritendinitis), inflammation of the bursa (bursitis), as well as (partial) rupture.

Non Surgical Treatment

The initial treatment for retrocalcaneal bursitis is to avoid activities that cause pain and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (for example, ibruprofen). Your doctor may recommend icing the heel several times a day and may prescribe physical therapy to improve flexibility and strength around the ankle. Physical therapy serves two functions, it can help the bursitis improve and it can help prevent future recurrences.


To prevent bursitis of the heel in the first place, always keep proper form during exercise. In addition, don?t jump into exercises that are too intense without building up to them. Strengthen and flex your ankle.