Here in our podiatry practice in Massapequa, Long Island, we see many patients whose heel pain is caused by bursitis, or inflammation in the bursae surrounding your joints. But what are bursae? What causes bursitis? And how do our Nassau County podiatrists treat this condition? Keep reading to find out. 

What are bursae? 

Bursae is the plural of bursa. The term describes fluid-filled sacs that perform an important job in your body: cushioning the muscles, tendons and bones that surround your joints.  Now,  you can find bursae all over your body. But in your feet, they’re located at the bottom of your big toe as well as in your heel. So, if you develop a problem in the bursa in your heel, the result may be heel pain due to bursitis. 

What is bursitis?

Bursitis is a condition that develops when one or more of your bursae become inflamed. The condition is painful. As such, if you have heel pain, the cause could be bursitis (either calcaneal bursitis, affecting the bursa in the bottom of your heel, or retrocalcaneal bursitis, impacting the bursa at the back of your heel.) Regardless of the location of the inflammation, you’ll need a thorough examination to find an accurate diagnosis—and relief. But what causes bursitis itself? Unfortunately, many factors could contribute to this painful inflammation. 

Causes and Symptoms person holding the heel of their foot

Bursitis is often an overuse injury, and it’s often diagnosed along with other such injuries, including Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. If you engage in the same exercises regularly, even something as simple as trying to walk 10,000 steps a day, a painful case of bursitis could be an unexpected side effect. 

Now, in some instances, bursitis could be the result of a traumatic injury. It could also develop as the result of underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and/or gout. Contracting certain infections could increase your risk for this painful form of inflammation. If you have heel spurs, you may be more likely to develop bursitis. Wearing shoes that don’t properly fit your feet could also increase your risk, as could carrying extra weight. And, finally, simply getting older makes it more likely that you’ll develop heel pain caused by bursitis.  

But how will you know if the bursa in your heel has become inflamed? Of course, you’ll notice some heel pain, likely at the point where your Achilles tendon inserts into the bone. But that won’t be your only warning sign. You may also develop redness or swelling around the affected joint areas. Stiffness or aching pain could be a problem. And that pain will likely worsen when you stand, if you try to move, or if you apply pressure to the affected area. 

Treating Heel pain Caused by Bursitis in Nassau County, Long Island 

As soon as you notice heel pain, it’s important to seek immediate treatment. The sooner you seek care for your discomfort—whether it’s caused by bursitis, or another condition such as plantar fasciitis—the sooner we will be able to provide relief. (And, usually, with less invasive treatment options.)
Our first plan of action for relieving heel pain caused by bursitis is always to employ non-surgical, conservative interventions. To begin with, we’ll get you to take a break from exercise or vigorous physical activities. By getting you to rest your affected foot or feet, we’ll give your body a chance to begin its internal healing processes. 

During this time period, we’ll also recommend icing the affected area, in order to reduce inflammation and pain in your heel bursae. You may also need anti-inflammatory medications, or even antibiotics, if we suspect your bursitis is the result of an infection. 

Once we’ve relieved your initial pain and inflammation, we can recommend physical therapy, or exercises that will help prevent recurrences by strengthening your surrounding muscles and taking pressure off the bursae. But we may also recommend adding Medical Grade Insoles (MGIs) or custom orthotics to your shoes in order to further relieve pressure on your heels—and your bursae. 

Preventing Future Cases of Bursitis

Once we’ve relieved the inflammation in your bursae, we can help you take steps to prevent recurring problems. First and foremost, we’ll want you to strengthen the muscles surrounding your inflamed bursa in order to provide further protection to your joints. 

In addition to remaining generally active, there are specific exercises that directly target and relieve bursitis pain. You can try placing your leg across a chair, allowing your foot to dangle over its edge. Once in position, flex and point your foot so that the toes point to the ceiling, then the wall. Aim for 10-20 reps on each foot, stopping if you experience any pain with movement. 

Next, try rotating your foot in a clockwise circular motion, keeping your extended leg as still as possible. Again, try to engage in 10-20 reps in one direction, then 10-20 circles in the opposite direction, before switching legs. 

Now, get your leg off that chair and get on the ground, stretching one leg in front of you and placing the other foot on the inside of the extended leg, bending at the knee to make this contact possible. Once in position, wrap a towel around the bottom of your extended foot, pulling the toes back toward your face to experience a mild stretching sensation. Hold for 5 seconds, repeating the stretch 10 times before switching to the other leg. 
Of course, while these bursitis-specific exercises can help prevent inflammation, you will need to take additional precautions once you return to your regular activities. Before engaging in any form of exercise, make sure to warm up and stretch. Also, be sure to vary the exercises in which you engage in daily, making sure that you don’t overload one area of your body and irritate your bursae. Finally, build rest days into your exercise routines. And, if you begin to notice heel pain or any other symptoms of bursitis, stop activity and request an immediate appointment with our podiatrists in Massapequa

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