What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is the inflammation and swelling of a fluid-filled sac known as a bursa. Bursae are present between bones and the skin, tendons, or muscles. They act as cushions around joints and ensure the smooth movement between the moving body parts surrounding a joint. Overuse of a joint, however, as well as trauma, can eventually lead to bursitis.

With 33 joints present in the foot, bursitis can occur in several locations where these fluid-filled sacs are present. The most common types of bursitis to occur in the feet are:

  • retrocalcaneal bursitis—this affects the back of the heel
  • calcaneal bursitis—the bottom of the heel the ball of the foot
  • posterior and anterior Achilles tendon bursitis—affects the area between the Achilles tendon and the heel
  • adventitial bursitis—inflammation of bursae that develop in adulthood by the toe joints

What Are the Causes of Bursitis?

One of the main causes of bursitis is overuse of the affected joint. The bursae that surround the joint become inflamed due to extended periods of use, and as a result, cause swelling, redness, and pain around the joint. Other causes of bursitis include:

  • stress on joints from excess weight
  • regular standing for long periods
  • trauma and injury
  • gout
  • viral infections
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • incorrectly fitted shoes
  • flat or high arched feet

What are the Symptoms of Bursitis in Your Feet?

Common symptoms of bursitis in your feet include:

  • increased swelling to the affected soft tissues around a foot joint
  • pain when running or even walking. The pain can sometimes also worsen at night
  • stiffness when trying to move the affected joint
  • redness and warmth radiating from the joint area

What to Expect During a Bursitis Treatment at the Podiatrist

Since symptoms and causes of bursitis are common with other types of illnesses such as tendinitis, gout, and bone problems, your podiatrist will begin your first session by conducting a comprehensive health exam to rule out other conditions. This diagnosis will include your family health history, current lifestyle, and dietary choices, as well as a physical foot exam. Other possible tests may include:

  • X-rays
  • MRIs
  • ultrasound
  • blood tests—to rule out diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
  • arthrocentesis—removal and culture bursal fluid to rule out the presence of a current infection

Treatment of bursitis depends on the patient in question, and personalized treatment ensures an increase in wellness and improved quality of life. Your podiatrist will prescribe a treatment plan based on your lifestyle and the severity of the symptoms. This can include:

  • complete rest
  • hot and cold therapy
  • use of medicines like NSAIDs
  • properly fitted and cushioned footwear
  • use of splints and orthotics
  • physical therapy
  • avoidance of repetitive movement
  • steroid injections
  • surgery—last resort if pain and swelling hasn't subsided within six months

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