Bursitis Following Foot Surgery

Overview

That dull misery in the shoulder, knee or elbow known as bursitis can strike anybody, from the couch potato to the highly trained athlete. Though bursitis may hurt as much as arthritis, it isn?t a joint disease. Rather, it's an acute or chronic painful inflammation of a bursa. Bursae (from the Greek word for wine-skin and related to the English word purse) are small, closed, fluid-filled sacs that protect muscles and tendons from irritation produced by contact with bones. If friction becomes too great, from overexercising, hard work, or injury, for instance-the bursae themselves may get inflamed. Though the shoulder is a common locale for bursitis, any of the bursae in the human body-there are approximately 150-can become irritated. Occupational bursitis is not uncommon and is known by old, familiar names such as "housemaid's knee," and "policeman's heel." One of the most common foot ailments, the bunion, is a form of bursitis.

Causes

For the most part, it is a genetic condition. You develop it by inheriting a foot type that is prone to the mechanical irritation that leads to the problem. If you have this particular foot type and wear shoes that rub and irritate the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the Achilles tendon attaches, then you are even more likely to develop this type of bursitis. The contributing factors include a supinated foot type, a heel bone with a prominence (or pointed shape that stick out toward the tendon) at the back, a tight Achilles tendon (referred to as Equinus by doctors), and a high arch. All of these factors simply make it more likely that the back of the heel will press against the shoe and rub. As the tendon gets rubbed the wrong way, the bursa starts to develop and fill with fluid. This response is really your body's way of protecting the tendon from damage, but it backfires. The friction from all that rubbing causes the bursa to become inflamed and swell. This causes the bump to become red, hot and stick out even further. Much like a sore thumb, it then gets irritated by even the softest shoes.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of heel bursitis? pain, swelling, tenderness, redness, and/or warmth at either the bottom of the heel or top of the heel, depending on the degree of swelling, pain may be a dull ache or substantial enough to cause limping, running, jumping, and walking activities may exacerbate pain, wearing poorly fitting, tight, or high-heeled shoes may exacerbate pain.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of heel bursitis can be made by your health practitioner and is based on the following. Assessing the location of the pain by palpating the back of the heel. Assessment of any inflammation at the back of the heel. Assessment of biomechanics and foot function. Ultrasound or MRI can reveal inflammation of the retro calcaneal bursa.

Non Surgical Treatment

If you follow these steps, most attacks of bursitis should subside in four or five days and all symptoms should be gone within two weeks. Rest the body part that hurts. If you suspect that one activity has caused the pain, stop it until the pain is entirely gone. A sling, splint, or padding may be needed to protect the area from possible bumps or irritation. Try over-the-counter pain relievers. Nonprescription NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) will help reduce pain and swelling, though they won?t accelerate healing. Acetaminophen will help with pain but it doesn?t reduce inflammation. Ice it, then heat it. Apply ice packs during the first two days to bring down swelling. Then use heat-warm baths or a heating pad (on a medium or low setting)-to ease pain and stimulate blood flow. Don?t push it. Resume exercising only after you feel better. Start with gentle activity. Skip the liniments. Liniments and balms are no help for bursitis. Liniments don?t penetrate deeply enough to treat bursitis, they mainly warm the skin and make it tingle, thus distracting attention from the pain beneath. Massage is likely to make matters worse. Undergo physical therapy. Physical therapy strengthens joint muscles that have been affected by bursitis and may help prevent the bursitis from getting worse.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery. Though rare, particularly challenging cases of retrocalcaneal bursitis might warrant a bursectomy, in which the troublesome bursa is removed from the back of the ankle. Surgery can be effective, but operating on this boney area can cause complications, such as trouble with skin healing at the incision site. In addition to removing the bursa, a doctor may use the surgery to treat another condition associated with the retrocalcaneal bursitis. For example, a surgeon may remove a sliver of bone from the back of the heel to alter foot mechanics and reduce future friction. Any bone spurs located where the Achilles attaches to the heel may also be removed. Regardless of the conservative treatment that is provided, it is important to wait until all pain and swelling around the back of the heel is gone before resuming activities. This may take several weeks. Once symptoms are gone, a patient may make a gradual return to his or her activity level before their bursitis symptoms began. Returning to activities that cause friction or stress on the bursa before it is healed will likely cause bursitis symptoms to flare up again.

Prevention

It isn't always possible to avoid the sudden blow, bump, or fall that may produce bursitis. But you can protect your body with measures similar to those that protect you from other kinds of overuse injuries, such as tendinitis. Keep yourself in good shape. Strengthening and flexibility exercises tone muscles that support joints and help increase joint mobility. Don?t push yourself too hard (or too long). If you?re engaged in physical labor, pace yourself and take frequent breaks. If you?re beginning a new exercise program or a new sport, work up gradually to higher levels of fitness. And anytime you?re in pain, stop. Work on technique. Make sure your technique is correct if you play tennis, golf, or any sport that may strain your shoulder. Watch out for ?elbow-itis.? If you habitually lean on your elbow at your work desk, this may be a sign that your chair is uncomfortable or the wrong height. Try to arrange your work space so that you don?t have to lean on your elbow to read, write, or view your computer screen. Take knee precautions. If you have a task that calls for lots of kneeling (for example, refinishing or waxing a floor), cushion your knees, change position frequently, and take breaks. Wear the right shoes. High-heeled or ill-fitting shoes cause bunions, and tight shoes can also cause bursitis in the heel. Problems in the feet can also affect the hips. In particular, the tendons and bursae in the hips can be put under excessive strain by worn-down heels. Buy shoes that fit and keep them in good repair. Never wear a shoe that?s too short or narrow. Women should save their high heels for special occasions only. Avoid staying in only one position for too long. Get up and walk around for a while or change positions frequently.

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