Physical Rehabilitation For Bursitis Of The Feet

Overview


Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as shock absorbers and cushions for our bones and tendons. There are two such sacs located on the back of your heel. The subtendinous calcaneal, also called retrocalcaneal bursa, is situated between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus). The subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, which is also referred to as the Achilles bursa, is found on the backside of the heel and Achilles. If either or both of these bursae become inflamed, the result is pain and tenderness.


Causes


For the most part, it is a genetic condition. You develop it by inheriting a foot type that is prone to the mechanical irritation that leads to the problem. If you have this particular foot type and wear shoes that rub and irritate the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the Achilles tendon attaches, then you are even more likely to develop this type of bursitis. The contributing factors include a supinated foot type, a heel bone with a prominence (or pointed shape that stick out toward the tendon) at the back, a tight Achilles tendon (referred to as Equinus by doctors), and a high arch. All of these factors simply make it more likely that the back of the heel will press against the shoe and rub. As the tendon gets rubbed the wrong way, the bursa starts to develop and fill with fluid. This response is really your body's way of protecting the tendon from damage, but it backfires. The friction from all that rubbing causes the bursa to become inflamed and swell. This causes the bump to become red, hot and stick out even further. Much like a sore thumb, it then gets irritated by even the softest shoes.


Symptoms


Pain or tenderness at the back of the heel around the Achilles region. Increased pain during activities with strong, repetitive calf contractions, walking (uphill), stair climbing, running, jumping. Pain may be worse with rest after activity (that night or the next morning) or at the beginning of the excercise. Pain when wearing shoes and the heel is getting rubbed. Bump forming on the back of the heel. Limping. Stiffness. Decreased range of motion. Redness and warmth (if the bursa gets infected).


Diagnosis


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may demonstrate bursal inflammation, but this modality probably does not offer much more information than that found by careful physical examination. Theoretically, MRI could help the physician to determine whether the inflammation is within the subcutaneous bursa, the subtendinous bursa, or even within the tendon itself, however, such testing is generally not necessary. Ultrasonography may be a potentially useful tool for diagnosing pathologies of the Achilles tendon.


Non Surgical Treatment


Most bursitis cases can be treated by the patient without having to see a doctor. A trip to a pharmacy, a conversation with the pharmacist, and some self-care techniques are usually enough. The NHS (National Health Service, UK) recommends PRICEM, a self-care management approach. PRICEM stands for Protection. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Medication. Protect the affected area, Some people place padding to protect the affected bursae from any blow. Rest. Do not exercise or use the joints in the affected area unless you really have to. Let it rest. Bursitis is a condition that responds well to rest. Ice packs. Ice packs can help reduce pain and inflammation. Make sure you do not place the ice directly on the skin, use a pack or towel. A small pack of frozen vegetables are ideal. Raise the affected area. If you can, lift the affected area, raise it, less blood will gather there. This may help reduce the inflammation. Painkillers. Ibuprofen is an effective painkiller for treating pain, it also reduces inflammation. Steroids. For more severe symptoms the doctor may inject steroids into the affected area. Steroids block a body chemical called prostaglandin. Prostaglandin causes inflammation. Steroids may raise the patient's blood pressure if used for too long, as well as increasing his/her risk of getting an infection. UK doctors are advised not to give more than three steroid injections in one year. Antibiotics. If the fluid test confirms that there is a bacterial infection, the doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics. These will be administered orally (via mouth).


Surgical Treatment


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.

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