Bursa are fluid-filled sacs that provide a cushion between bones and tendons in significant joints throughout the body. Bursitis occurs when these sacs become inflamed or swollen. Heel bursitis is a condition that affects the bursa located at the back of the ankle near the heel.
The pain and discomfort caused by bursitis of the heel can be confused with several other causes of heel pain, so it's crucial that you get a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan from a heel pain physician at one of Northwest Extremity Specialists' 14 offices in the Portland area.
Causes of Heel Bursitis
As an active person, you rely on your feet and ankles to support your many athletic, recreational, work, and family endeavors. Sometimes, all of this running around and overuse can cause an injury like bursitis. When the bursa between your Achilles tendon and your heel bone become irritated, you will experience aches and swelling that worsen the more active you are. Common causes of heel bursitis include:
- Starting a new, intense sport or workout program
- Suddenly increasing your level of activity without proper conditioning
- Running, walking, or working out in shoes that don't have the proper support
- Family or personal history of arthritis
- General overuse (standing for long periods or walking a long distance)
You can prevent the likelihood of developing heel bursitis by stretching before workouts or athletics and gradually working up to more intense activity levels.
Symptoms of Heel Bursitis
Bursitis of the heel can be mistaken for Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, or Haglund's deformity. An experienced ankle specialist can differentiate between these conditions to provide an accurate diagnosis. Common symptoms of bursitis of the heel include:
- Intense pain or achiness in one or both heels that gets worse with activity
- Increased pain when standing on your toes
- Pain in your calf muscles
- Red, warm, or swollen patches on your heel or ankle
The sooner you have a specialist examine your heel and start you on the appropriate treatment plan, the sooner you can get back to doing the things you love.
Treatment for Bursitis of the Heel
If you experience heel pain after exercising, you can do a few things at home to alleviate the pain and potentially prevent further injury. Traditional, at-home treatments that we recommend include:
- Rest. It's essential to get off your feet and rest them if you are feeling pain with activity. Rest allows the swelling and irritation in the bursa to go down, which will also ease the pain. The more you irritate the bursa through activity, the harder it will be to get relief with at-home treatments.
- Ice. Icing the heel area can also reduce swelling and allow the bursa to function as cushions again. Standard icing treatment is to apply an ice pack covered in a light towel for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours during the first 24 hours after an injury.
- Elevation. Propping the foot on a pillow as you rest can also help reduce swelling. If direct pressure hurts your heel, try resting the inside or outside of your ankle on the cushion.
- Pain medication. Over-the-counter pain medication can help to reduce swelling and ease pain in the short term.
If bursitis pain persists, your ankle specialist might recommend physical therapy, a change in footwear, or orthotics for better arch support. At Northwest Extremity Specialists, our doctors might also recommend EPAT or shockwave therapy to trigger accelerated healing in damaged tissue.
Call Us to Get Help With Heel Bursitis
We understand how frustrating it can be to struggle with heel pain, especially when you are an active person. Our board-certified physicians are available in our state-of-the-art facilities throughout the greater Portland area to help you get back on your feet. To schedule an appointment with the Northwest Extremity Specialists, call your nearest office or drop us a line using our online contact form.