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Foot Bursitis

Foot Bursitis

What is Foot Bursitis?

Foot bursitis is a painful condition that occurs when a bursa in the heel or ankle becomes swollen and inflamed.

A bursa is a small sac that secretes a lubricating liquid called synovial fluid which reduces friction between tissues, acts as a cushion between the muscles, tendons, and bones, and helps lubricate the joints to move freely.

There are more than 150 bursae in the human body. There are two bursae in the heel by the heel bone (the calcaneus), both of which can develop bursitis and cause pain in the heel:

  • Subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, or Achilles bursa (known as Achilles tendon bursitis, and which often occurs in conjunction with Achilles tendonitis)
  • Retrocalcaneal bursa (most common form of foot bursitis)

Sometimes stress on the ankle can cause a new bursa (called the subcutaneous bursa of medial malleolus) to form beneath the skin surrounding the ankle joint.

This bursa can also become inflamed and cause ankle bursitis, another type of foot bursitis.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Foot Bursitis?

Foot bursitis is a common cause of heel pain, especially among athletes. 

The most common cause of foot bursitis is long-term repetitive movements or positions (whether from your job or hobby) that put pressure on the ankle joint and bursae in the heel.

Other risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing foot bursitis include:

  • Previous surgery or injury
  • Trauma, such as a hard blow to the heel or ankle
  • Bacterial infection, called septic bursitis
  • Inflammatory autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, and gout
  • Thyroid conditions or diabetes
  • Bone spurs from osteoarthritis
  • Weak and inflexible calf muscles
  • Inadequate or improper stretching before exercising, training or playing sports
  • Age – anyone can develop bursitis, but it becomes more common with aging
  • Being overweight
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes
  • Wearing tight or poorly fitted shoes
  • Haglund’s deformity (where a bony enlargement forms on your heel from rubbing against your shoes)

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Foot Bursitis?

Foot bursitis causes swelling, tenderness and pain in areas around the heel and ankle.

Depending on the cause of your foot bursitis, signs and symptoms may include:

  • A lump over the back of your heel
  • Sharp shooting pain or pain that gets worse when you press on your foot or move your foot or calf, such as climbing stairs, walking uphill, running, jumping, or standing on your tiptoes
  • Pain that gets worse when wearing shoes
  • Pain that is worse at the end of the day
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Limping to avoid the pain
  • Red and warm heel or ankle with or without a fever and chills (if the cause of your foot bursitis is due to infection)

Concerned about symptoms of foot bursitis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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How is Foot Bursitis Treated?

Treatments for foot bursitis can include:

  • Applying ice, resting your foot, and avoiding activities
  • Physiotherapy
  • Medications, including:
    • Topical medications such as creams, sprays, gels or patches
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), either prescribed, or over-the-counter, such as Advil, Motrin or Aleve
    • Antibiotics (if your foot bursitis is caused by an infection)
  • Draining a swelled bursa of excess fluid with a needle and syringe which can then be tested at a lab to determine if the bursa is infected
  • Corticosteroid injections to relieve pain and inflammation (only if the cause is not due to infection)
  • Surgery

Surgical removal of a bursa is very rare. If surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation.

Physiotherapy for Foot Bursitis

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing joint mobility and function, and preventing recurrence.

At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.

Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for foot bursitis can include:

Are you seeking physiotherapy for foot bursitis treatment? Book an assessment today.

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Can Foot Bursitis Go Away on Its Own?

Depending on the cause, foot bursitis can get better on its own within a few weeks with at-home treatments in conjunction with modifying your daily habits, including:

  • Applying heat and cold therapy appropriately
  • Resting your foot between workouts and repetitive tasks (only resume these activities once pain and swelling are under control)
  • Avoiding actions that put stress on your foot, like soccer, basketball, tennis and running
  • Switching to lower impact activities, such as using an exercise bike or walking instead of jogging (once your foot bursitis is healed)
  • Using assistive devices such as crutches to relieve pressure on the foot

However, repeated flare-ups are common, so if the above measures don’t resolve your symptoms, you may want to consult a physiotherapist for a custom treatment plan to address your unique concerns.

Can You Prevent Foot Bursitis?

There are steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of developing foot bursitis, including:

  • Exercising regularly, including stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day); swimming is also an excellent physical activity for minimizing stress on the ankle joint and heel
  • Warming up before exercising or playing sports, and cooling down afterward
  • If you walk or run, try to do so on softer surfaces, rather than hard surfaces like concrete
  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight (which reduces joint strain and pain, and increases mobility and energy)
  • Wearing proper shoes and custom orthotics for correct weight bearing and joint alignment
  • Practicing good posture

Book a Physiotherapy Consult for Foot Bursitis Today

Concerned about symptoms of foot bursitis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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