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A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac which acts as a cushion for bones, tendons and muscles around joints. This helps to alleviate friction between moving bones, allowing for freer movement.
Achilles tendon bursitis is the swelling of the fluid-filled bursa situated in the heel of the foot. The condition can be classified in two ways:
1. Posterior, in which the bursa between the skin of the heel and the Achilles tendon is affected; or
2. Anterior, where the bursa between the heel bone and the tendon is affected.
Due to the similarity of their symptoms, Achilles tendon bursitis is often mistaken for Achilles tendinitis. It is possible for an individual to have both conditions at the same time. This is known as Haglund’s syndrome.
Achilles tendon bursitis can be caused by:
· Excessive, repeated pressure on the ankles and heels;
· Poorly fitting shoes;
· Underlying medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis; or
· Infection of the bursa.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Similar to those indicating Achilles tendinitis, the symptoms of Achilles tendon bursitis include:
· Swelling, redness and pain at the back of the heel;
· Warmth of the inflamed area to touch; and
· Restricted movement, and/or limping.
Achilles tendon bursitis is usually diagnosed by physical examination, in conjunction with radiographic imaging techniques, such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI.
The most effective treatment method for Achilles tendon bursitis is dependent on the cause of the condition. These might include:
· Cold compression therapy;
· Heel pads to minimize the strain on the tendon;
· Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; or
· Rehabilitative exercises.