Bursitis in the Heel Bone | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Bursitis in the Heel Bone

Overview and Facts about Bursitis in the Heel Bone

Bursitis in the heel bone, also known as retrocalcaneal bursitis, is an orthopedic condition that occurs when the fluid-filled sacs, called bursae, around your heel joint become inflamed.

The bursae are located above the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone. Bursitis of the heel bone is a common injury for athletes, frequently effecting dancers and runners.

Signs and Symptoms of Bursitis in the Heel Bone

Symptoms of bursitis in the heel bone include:

  • Pain when pressure is put on the heel
  • Swelling and inflammation at the back of the heel
  • Calf muscle pain when walking or running
  • Stiffness in the heel
  • Cracking of the joint when flexing the foot
  • Discomfort when wearing shoes

Causes and Risk Factors of Bursitis in the Heel Bone

The most common causes of bursitis in the heel bone are overuse of the ankle and heel, a rapid increase in activity and not warming up enough before physical activity. It can also arise due to walking in high heels or playing sports in inappropriate shoes. Other possible causes include arthritis, gout and Haglund’s deformity. In rare cases, bursitis of the heel may be caused by an infection.

You might have an increased risk of bursitis in the heel bone if you:

  • Participate in high-intensity sports
  • Are over 65 years of age
  • Don’t warm up sufficiently before exercise
  • Have tight muscles
  • Have a job involving repetitive movement and joint stress

Tests and Diagnosis of Bursitis in the Heel Bone

To diagnose bursitis in the heel, your doctor will examine your foot, ankle, and heel for signs of swelling, inflammation, heat, and tenderness. The doctor might use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or X-rays to pinpoint the injury and rule out a fracture or other more serious injury. In some instances, your doctor might withdraw fluid from your heel to test for infection.

Treatment and Care for Bursitis in the Heel Bone

Bursitis in the heel bone can usually be managed at home by:

  • Icing your heels several times throughout the day
  • Elevating your feet
  • Resting your ankles
  • Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Your physician might also recommend wearing heel wedges in your shoes to reduce the stress on your ankles and heels. Symptoms usually disappear within eight weeks of using at-home treatments. If home treatment is not successful, your doctor might recommend a steroid injection. Physical therapy can assist in strengthening the tendons around your ankle and heel. In rare cases, surgery is necessary to remove the bursae.

Bursitis of the heel bone can be prevented by warming up adequately before exercising, using proper form when working out and wearing supportive footwear.