Swelling and inflammation near a joint may be a sign of bursitis, a condition that involves buildup of liquid and inflammation in a bursa sac that cushions a joint. This condition has earned some interesting names over the years: housemaid?s knee, student?s elbow, and tailor?s bottom, to name a few. Simply put, bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa and buildup of fluid in the bursa sac. A bursa is a thin, slippery sac found around a joint that serves to reduce friction between bone and surrounding soft tissue, such as skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons. A bursa sac is made up of a synovial membrane, or synovium, that produces and contains synovial fluid. Excessive friction, a trauma, or other condition can irritate the synovium and cause it to become inflamed. The inflamed synovium will thicken and produce excess synovial fluid, and can cause symptoms such as localized swelling, skin redness and warmth, tenderness and pain. Of the approximately 160 bursae in the body, only a handful of them usually cause bursitis. These usual suspects are found in the knee, shoulder, elbow, and hip. Less frequently, bursitis may also occur in the heel, wrist, buttocks and big toe.
The following are some of the more common causes for heel bursitis. Overuse (common in runners and athletes). Running with the wrong footwear. A sudden impact to the foot. Repetitive stress. Underlying inflammatory condition (such as osteoarthritis).
Where the tendon joins the calcaneal bone, friction can cause the spaces between the tendon, bone and skin to swell and inflame with bursitis. This constitutes a calcaneal bursa. Apart from swelling over the back of the heel, you?ll feel acute tenderness and pain when you move it or even apply light pressure. Your swollen heel may look more red than the other one, and the swelling is often so hard it can feel like bone, partly because it sometimes is, as a bony overgrowth can occur in chronic cases.
Careful examination by your physician or physiotherapist can determine if the inflammation is from the Achilles tendon or from the retrocalcaneal bursa. Tenderness due to insertional Achilles tendinitis is normally located slightly more distal where the tendon inserts into the back of the heel, whereas tenderness caused by the retrocalcaneal bursa is normally palpable at the sides of the distal Achilles tendon. Diagnosis can be confirmed with an ultrasound investigation, MRI or CT scan.
Non Surgical Treatment
So what can you do to alleviate this type of pain in the foot? If the bursitis pain is occurring on the toes, bunion or back of the heel area the smart money would be on eliminating the shoes that seem to aggravate the condition. Eliminating these shoes may not in itself clear up the problem but you can be sure that if you continue to wear the offending shoes nothing you or your doctor do will permanently ?fix? the problem. A recurring theme that I use throughout this site that if you put an abnormally shaped foot in a dressy shoe it is literally the same as trying to put a square peg in a round hole, it will not fit. OK, so you threw away those dressy shoes and the foot still hurts, now what? Depending on the severity of the pain, over the counter anti-inflammatory medication may do the trick. The key here is to take the medication on an ongoing basis, according to the directions on the package to build up therapeutic blood levels. Assuming you can tolerate this type of medication, along with alternative treatments you can try). take the medication for 10-14 days. Stop if the symptoms have not dramatically improved. Icing the area during this period may also help reduce the symptoms.
Surgery is rarely done strictly for treatment of a bursitis. If any underlying cause is the reason, this may be addressed surgically. During surgery for other conditions, a bursa may be seen and removed surgically.