The calf muscle (M Gastrocnemicus) is comprised of two muscle heads which gather in a wide tendinous ligament and continue in to the Achilles tendon. Another of the larger calf muscles (M Soleus) is
attached to the front side of the Achilles tendon and thus forms a part of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles is attached to the heel bone (calcaneus). At the heel bone there is a bursa in front of
the Achilles anchor point (bursae tendinis Achilles), as well as behind (bursae subcutanea calcanei). The bursa reduce the pressure against the heel bone.
If the posterior-superior portion of the heel has an abnormally large bony prominence protruding from it (called a Haglund's Deformity), in some instances it may rub against the Achilles Tendon. When
this occurs, the bursa between the bone and the tendon will become inflamed, swollen, and painful. This condition is called Retrocalcaneal Bursitis. The presence of a Haglund's Deformity does not
insure that these problems will occur. In order for these problems to occur, the heel and foot must be tilted in such a way as to actually force this bony prominence into the bursa and tendon.
Symptoms of bursitis usually occur after rest and relaxation. Upon activity there is usually more intense pain in the area of the bursa. The common areas to have a bursitis in the foot are in the
bottom of the heel, behind the heel near the attachment of the Achilles Tendon as well as along the side of a bunion. A bursa may also form in multiple areas especially along the metatarsal heads, or
"ball" of your foot. You may actually feel the sac like fluid when rubbing the area of pain.
When you are experiencing Achilles pain at the back of your heel, a visit to the doctor is always recommended. Getting a proper diagnosis is important so you can treat your condition correctly. A
doctor visit is always recommended.
Non Surgical Treatment
Relieving the symptoms of bursitis initially focuses on taking the pressure off the bursa. This can be done with proper cushioning, inserts, or footwear but may require surgery if it is a bone
formation problem (i.e. Huglund's Deformity). If your bursitis is caused by an infection (septic bursitis), the doctor will probably drain the bursa sac with a needle and prescribe antibiotics to
treat the infection.
Only if non-surgical attempts at treatment fail, will it make sense to consider surgery. Surgery for retrocalcanel bursitis can include many different procedures. Some of these include removal of the
bursa, removing any excess bone at the back of the heel (calcaneal exostectomy), and occasionally detachment and re-attachment of the Achilles tendon. If the foot structure and shape of the heel bone
is a primary cause of the bursitis, surgery to re-align the heel bone (calcaneal osteotomy) may be considered. Regardless of which exact surgery is planned, the goal is always to decrease pain and
correct the deformity. The idea is to get you back to the activities that you really enjoy. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the exact surgical procedure that is most likely to correct the
problem in your case. But if you have to have surgery, you can work together to develop a plan that will help assure success.
Prevention can be accomplished by controlling your foot structure with good supportive shoes or arch supports. Pay attention to early signs of friction like blister formation. This tells you where
the areas that are more likely to cause a bursa to form and subsequently a bursitis.