How Does Heel Bursitis Develop and What Can You Do About It?

heel bursitis

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  • There are several symptoms associated with heel bursitis, with the most prominent indicator being pain in the back of the heel

There are many bursae located in your foot, but the ones in the heel are more prone to injury. There are two types of heel bursitis you can develop:

Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis — This condition affects the bursa located between the skin of the back of the heel and the Achilles tendon. It is also known as retrocalcaneal bursitis .1

Anterior Achilles tendon bursitis — Also known as retromalleolar bursitis, it affects the bursa located in front of the Achilles tendon to the heel bone.2

Symptoms of Heel Bursitis You Shouldn’t Ignore

There are several symptoms associated with heel bursitis, with the most prominent indicator being pain in the back of the heel. Redness, swelling and warmth may develop as well.3 You may find that wearing certain shoes can become uncomfortable or painful.4 One final indicator is increasing pain when there are changes in your activity level, such as starting a very intense workout schedule.5

Treatment Options for Heel Bursitis

Rest is one of the first recommended treatment options for heel bursitis. This is done by avoiding activities you notice that cause pain in your heel. If you absolutely need to go somewhere, consider putting custom heel wedges in your shoes to help relieve pressure from the heel.6

In rare cases, heel bursitis may need to be treated with surgery if natural healing methods and physical therapy are ineffective. There are two methods that you may undergo:

Aspiration — In this method, a needle will be inserted into the inflamed bursa to drain the fluid buildup.7

Bursa removal — As the name implies, a surgeon will remove the bursa to prevent any inflammation from occurring again.8

An Exercise That Can Help With Heel Bursitis

Physical therapy is crucial in treating heel bursitis. Not only does it help with pain relief, but also assists with strengthening the heel area to prevent future inflammation. Medscape has a stretching exercise that you can try. However, before making an attempt, be sure to visit a licensed physical therapist, as exercising without professional guidance can worsen your condition:9

"1. Stand in front of a wall, with the affected foot flat on the floor. Lean forward toward the wall until a gentle stretching is felt within the ipsilateral Achilles tendon.

2. Maintain the stretch for 20 to 60 seconds and then relax.

3. Perform the stretches with the knee extended and then again with the knee flexed.

4. To maximize the benefit of the stretching program, repeat the above steps for several stretches per set, several times daily. Avoid ballistic (i.e., abrupt, jerking) stretches."

Heel Bursitis Can Be Confused With Achilles Tendinitis

Your Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the back of the heel. Due to its close proximity with the bursae in your heel, it may be confused with bursitis when it becomes inflamed.

One easy way of identifying Achilles tendinitis is pain and stiffness of the actual Achilles tendon, which is located just above the heel, as opposed to the heel bursae, which are at the heel itself. You may also notice the Achilles tendon becoming thicker. If you felt a sudden “pop” in the back of your heel, you may have torn your Achilles tendon. If this happens, visit a doctor immediately.10


MORE ABOUT BURSITIS

Bursitis: An Introduction

What Is Bursitis?

Bursitis Types

Hip Bursitis

Elbow Bursitis

Knee Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Heel Bursitis

Septic Bursitis

Bursitis Causes

Bursitis Symptoms

Bursitis Treatment

Bursitis Prevention

Bursitis Diet

Bursitis FAQ

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