Definition

What is Achilles Bursitis?

Achilles bursitis is the painful inflammation and swelling of the Achilles bursa. The Achilles bursa is situated between the skin and the Achilles tendon which attaches to the calcaneus (heel bone). A bursa is a small fluid filled sac that forms around joints in areas where there is a lot of friction, normally between muscles, tendons or outcrops of bone. The bursae position themselves in between the tendon, muscle or bone buffering any friction from movement. It provides a soft smooth cushion for the tendon to pass over painlessly and acts as a lubricant and aids the tendon’s movement.

How common is Achilles Bursitis?

Achilles Bursitis is a common foot pain in athletes, particularly runners. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Achilles Bursitis?

The symptoms of bursitis vary, depending on whether it is the result of injury and an underlying health condition or from infection. From overuse and injury the pain is normally a constant dull ache or burning pain at the back of the heel that is aggravated by any touch, pressure like tight shoes or movement of the joint. There will normally be noticeable swelling around the back of the heel. In other cases where the bursa lies deep under the skin such as in the hip or shoulder, swelling may not be visible. Movement of the ankle and foot will be stiff especially in the morning and after any activity involving the foot. All of these symptoms are experienced with septic bursitis with the addition of a high temperature of 38ºC or over and feverish chills. The skin around the affected joint will also appear to be red and will feel incredibly warm to the touch.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Achilles Bursitis?

Achilles bursitis is often caused by excessive friction on the skin overlying the Achilles tendon, such as from wearing poorly fitted shoes. Overuse activities involving repetitive calf contractions, such as walking or running excessively, can also contribute to the development of the condition. Occasionally the condition may develop following trauma such as a direct impact to the Achilles bursa.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Achilles Bursitis?

The risk of developing bursitis in this way is greater for those whose jobs or hobbies involve repetitive movements. Examples of this are carpet fitters and gardeners who spend significant time kneeling and therefore are more at risk of bursitis in the knee; likewise, runners have a greater likelihood of developing bursitis in the hip.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Achilles Bursitis diagnosed?

A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist may be all that is necessary to diagnose Achilles bursitis. Diagnosis may be confirmed, most commonly with an ultrasound investigation, or sometimes with a MRI or CT scan.

How is Achilles Bursitis treated?

Your GP may prescribe a short course of anti-inflammatory painkillers to reduce and control the painful inflammation that occurs and antibiotics in cases of septic bursitis. Applying a covered ice pack to the area after the initial injury may also significantly hasten the healing process by reducing the pain and swelling. Make sure the ice pack is covered to prevent any ice burn and for best results use the icepack regularly for 10-15 minutes with intervals of 30 minutes. Where possible it is advisable to avoid all aggravating movements and postures, however complete rest can lead to weakness and further shortening of the muscle. Massage and manipulative therapies can help loosen the surrounding muscles and tendons of the affected joint, reducing the pressure over the bursa and allowing it to heal faster. If the bursitis is chronic and not responding to treatment then your GP may refer you for a corticosteroid injection, which will reduce the inflammation levels and will in-turn reduce the pain levels experienced. Corticosteroid injections can have varied results. Surgery is a rare option when it comes to bursitis but occasionally it may be necessary in extremely chronic cases or to drain an infected bursa.

The underlying cause of the bursitis must be identified to prevent further reoccurrences. Failure to eliminate the cause may lead to future flare ups and a poor and slow recovery. Future occurrences can be prevented with the use of stretches and strengthening exercises which will help prevent muscles tightening over the bursa. Pilates and yoga are very good for this, as long as the aggravating movements are avoided. Wearing joint supports such as knee pads or elbow supports may also reduce the likelihood of redeveloping bursitis.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Achilles Bursitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Achilles Bursitis:

  • Reduce physical activity.
  • Use ice packs.
  • Rest the heel.
  • Strengthen calf muscles.
  • Elevate your foot to reduce swelling.
  • Don’t overuse the tendon.
  • Wear a brace or a compressive stocking.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Wear proper shoes.
  • Go to physical therapy.
  • Partake in ultrasound therapy.
  • Exercise and stretch regularly.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 23, 2018 | Last Modified: August 23, 2018

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