Plantar calcaneal bursitis is a medical condition in which there is inflammation of the plantar calcaneal bursa, a spongy fluid filled sac that cushions the fascia of the heel and the calcaneus (heel bone). It is characterized by swelling and tenderness of the central plantar heel area. It is sometimes called 'Policeman's heel'. It sometimes was, and should not be, confused with plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the plantar fascia and can affect any part of the foot.
The swelling is the result of the blockage of blood, tissue fluids and circulation in the heel because their normal movement has been disrupted by the force of the injury. Just like cars back up behind a traffic jam, causing congestion, exhaust and overheating, blood and fluids back up behind the injured heel, causing pain, inflammation, lumps and swelling.
Some of the symptoms of bursitis in the heel, or retrocalcaneal bursitis, are as described below. Severe pain in the heel area of the foot, sometimes radiating to the ankle, associated with physical activities like walking, jogging and even on physical contact to the area. The physical signs of heel bursitis, which are noticeable in the heel area, are reddish discoloration of the skin that is warm to touch.
Diagnosis of heel bursitis can be made by your health practitioner and is based on the following. Assessing the location of the pain by palpating the back of the heel. Assessment of any inflammation at the back of the heel. Assessment of biomechanics and foot function. Ultrasound or MRI can reveal inflammation of the retro calcaneal bursa.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many times, Achilles tendon bursitis can be treated with home care. However, if self-care remedies do not work, your doctor may need to administer additional treatments. Home care. The most important thing you can do to help your healing is to refrain from activities that could further aggravate the bursitis. Typical home-care treatments for Achilles tendon bursitis include Anti-inflammatory medication. Take over-the-counter pain medication, like aspirin or ibuprofen, to reduce pain and swelling. Heel wedges. An over-the-counter or custom heel wedge can be placed in your shoe to minimize stress in the Achilles tendon. Ice. Apply ice or other cold therapy to your sore heel several times a day. Rest. Limit your activity on the injured leg, avoid putting pressure on it whenever possible. Also, elevate your leg during non-use to help reduce the swelling. The above remedies may be used on their own or in combination with others on the list. Physician-administered treatments. If the above self-care remedies are not effective, you should visit your doctor for additional treatment. Possible Achilles tendon bursitis treatments your doctor may administer include immobilization. If the bursitis is combined with Achilles tendonitis, your doctor may place a temporary cast on the ankle to prevent movement and allow it to heal. Physical therapy. Exercises may be used to improve the ankle's strength and flexibility. Steroids. Injection of steroids into the retrocalcaneal bursa (not the Achilles tendon) may be necessary. Surgery. In very rare circumstances, surgery may be needed to remove the retrocalcaneal bursa, however, this is typically a last resort.
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).
After taking a history and performing a physical examination, your physician may order x-rays to rule out other disorders. Your doctor may administer injections of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic to reduce swelling and ease pain. Also, to reduce swelling, your physician may draw excess fluid from the bursa with a syringe and then tightly wrap and compress the joint with an elastic bandage. In severe, persistent cases surgery to remove the bursa may be necessary. For infectious bursitis, antibiotics will be prescribed.