There are over 150 bursae in the human body. Usually bursae are present from birth, but they may form in response to repeated pressure. Each sac contains a small amount of synovial fluid, a clear
liquid that acts as a lubricant. Inflammation causes pain on movement. The most common site for bursitis to occur is the shoulder (subdeltoid), but it also is seen in the elbows (olecranon), hips
(trochanteric), knees, heels (Achilles), and toes. The affected area may be referred to as "frozen," because movement is so limited. In the knee there are four bursae, and all can become inflamed
Inflammation of the bursa causes synovial cells to multiply and thereby increases collagen formation and fluid production. A more permeable capillary membrane allows entrance of high protein fluid.
The bursal lining may be replaced by granulation tissue followed by fibrous tissue. The bursa becomes filled with fluid, which is often rich in fibrin, and the fluid can become hemorrhagic. One study
suggests that this process may be mediated by cytokines, metalloproteases, and cyclooxygenases.
When the bursa becomes inflamed after an injury, symptoms usually develop suddenly. When the bursa develops without an injury, symptoms may develop gradually. With both posterior and anterior
Achilles tendon bursitis, symptoms usually include swelling and warmth at the back of the heel. A minimally red, swollen, tender spot develops on the back of the heel. When the inflamed bursa
enlarges, it appears as a red lump under the skin of the heel and causes pain at and above the heel. If posterior Achilles tendon bursitis becomes chronic, the swelling may become hard, fluid-filled,
and red or flesh-colored.
Like all other forms of bursitis, initially the physician will take down the history of symptoms experienced by the patient, this will be followed by a detailed physical examination which involves
checking for inflammation signs like pain, redness, and warmth of the heel area. The physician might examine further by moving the ankle a little to determine the exact location of pain. Further
diagnostic tests including x-ray, bone scans, and MRI scan might be suggested if required.
Non Surgical Treatment
Gradual and progressive stretching of the Achilles tendon. Exercises to strengthen and support the ankle. Rest or reduced weight bearing activities. Immobilisation in a cast for 4-6 weeks for severe
cases. Ice. Proper fitting and supportive footwear. Massage. Joint mobilisation. Anti-inflammatory medications: only if this does not have adverse results with the patient's current medication. Heel
pads and heel lifts. Footwear Advice. Strapping and padding Orthoses/innersoles. The orthotics prescribed and designed by the podiatrists at the Heel and Arch Pain Clinic (affiliated with Beyond
Podiatry) are made to align the foot in the correct posture. Surgery is indicated in severe cases when conservative treatment has not resolved the problem.
Surgery is rarely need to treat most of these conditions. A patient with a soft tissue rheumatic syndrome may need surgery, however, if problems persist and other treatment methods do not help