The bursa is a small fluid-filled sack that's purpose is to protect the muscles and tendons around your heel. It's located just below the Achilles tendon and prevents friction between your heel bone and the surrounding muscles when you use your foot. The bursa can become inflamed as a result of overexertion such as starting a strenuous fitness regime or ramping up your training too quickly and this condition is known as bursitis of the heel. Here's an overview of the associated symptoms, diagnosis method and treatment options:
The following symptoms indicate bursitis of the heel:
- Your heel is red and swollen
- Your heel is painful when any pressure is applied to it
- Your heel feels warmer than the rest of your foot
- Your heel develops a hard lump
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
Bursitis of the heel can be easily diagnosed by a podiatrist. They will examine the affected heel, take a detailed account of your symptoms and stretch your foot in different directions to ensure the pain you're experiencing is originating in your heel. If the podiatrist shows concern, they will arrange for you to have an MRI or X-ray of your foot to determine the condition of the surrounding tissue and rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms such as plantar fasciitis.
Once you've been diagnosed as having bursitis of the heel your podiatrist will outline a treatment plan based on the severity of your symptoms. The aim of treatment is to reduce the inflammation around the bursa, so you'll be advised to rest the affected foot and refrain from strenuous exercise and high-impact sports for the time being. If you're experiencing severe pain and swelling your podiatrist may suggest you use over-the-counter or prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, but do seek your GPs approval before taking any medication.
Custom-made orthotic insoles are an effective way to relieve pressure on your heel by redistributing your weight to other parts of your feet, which will help reduce the swelling. You can buy orthotic insoles from a pharmacy, but they may not be effective and could even put additional stress on your heel. Custom-made orthotic insoles are designed for your feet and the specific problem you're tackling.
Inflammation of the bursa can cause the surrounding muscles and tendons to tighten, so your podiatrist will show you how to do some gentle exercises at home that will encourage flexibility and build strength. Doing these exercises regularly will promote blood flow to your heel, which can speed up healing by providing the inflamed tissue with oxygen and nutrients.
If you're experiencing any of the symptoms associated with bursitis of the heel, schedule a foot exam with resources like Morrison Podiatry Centre as soon as possible.