Achilles bursitis is one of those injuries that can really bring down the quality of your life. Anyone, young or old, can suffer from this injury, and if you’re active this condition will keep you from doing the things you love to do. It will even start interrupting any of your normal daily tasks and make living life harder than it really needs to be. Fortunately for you, professional athletes have had access to state of the art treatment therapies for years that allow them to heal more quickly and completely than you or I. This is why athletes that have a serious heel bursitis injury can often get back in the game in a matter of weeks while you could suffer for months or even years (in chronic cases).
Although rare, bursitis also may be caused by an infection, known as septic bursitis. This is a serious medical condition that requires antibiotics to treat the infection and prevent its spread to other points in the body or the bloodstream. Septic bursitis may cause the back of the ankle to become red or hot. The person may also get the chills or fever and may feel sick and tired. Typically this type of bursitis would be suspected if there has been any history of an open wound in the area, such as a blister.
Limping. Decreased movement. Your ankles may feel stiff or unable to move as well as they usually do. Pain or tenderness in the back of the ankle. It may be worse at the beginning of exercise, or when running uphill. You may also have pain when wearing shoes. Redness and warmth. If the bursa is infected, the skin over the heel may be red and warm. You may also have a fever. Swelling on the back of the heel.
The diagnosis is based on the symptoms and an examination. For anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, doctors use x-rays to rule out a fracture of the heel bone or damage to the heel bone caused by rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis.
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.
Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be performed in extreme cases. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, then additional treatment is needed. Septic bursitis is caused by the presence of a pus-forming organism, usually staphylococcus aureus. This is confirmed by examining a sample of the fluid in the bursa and requires treatment with antibiotics taken by mouth, injected into a muscle or into a vein (intravenously). The bursa will also need to be drained by needle two or three times over the first week of treatment. When a patient has such a serious infection, there may be underlying causes. There could be undiscovered diabetes, or an inefficient immune system caused by human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).