Bursitis is a fairly common condition that we help our patients with. Foot bursitis can occur in the heel (retrocalcaneal bursitis) or in the ball of the foot (intermetatarsal bursitis) with both types causing pain, inflammation and difficulty performing normal movements.
Fortunately, bursitis responds well to the right treatment which is often a combination of home remedies and podiatry treatment. Keep reading to discover the symptoms of bursitis, what causes it and how we can help you get back on your feet.
What is bursitis?
In order for our joints to move, tendons, ligaments, muscles and skin must also move. Tiny, fluid-filled sacs called bursae, allow for this motion by cushioning the bones, tendons and muscles, and easing friction and rubbing of the joints. These fluid sacs are found all over our body, including our feet.
Sometimes these can become inflamed and painful. This is known as bursitis.
In the foot, there is only one naturally occuring bursa, which is located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone (calcaneus). However, our body also creates other bursal sacs during ‘micro-traumas’ like running, walking and jumping, to protect areas of our feet. These can also form in injured areas of your foot and ankle.
Symptoms of foot bursitis
There are two types of foot bursitis:
When the bursae around the heel become inflamed.
The primary symptom of this type of foot bursitis is pain around your heel. You might also notice:
When the bursae in the ball of the foot become inflamed.
The metatarsal heads are commonly known as the balls of the foot. Sometimes the bursae in this area can become inflamed as well causing pain in the ball of the foot. Common symptoms include:
Often intermetatarsal bursitis presents in conjunction with other foot problems including Mortons neuroma (an irritation and swelling of the nerve that runs between the metatarsals).
Because other foot problems can cause similar pain to intermetatarsal bursitis, it’s important that you see a podiatrist in order to diagnose your condition accurately.
What causes bursitis in the feet?
The most common cause of retrocalcaneal bursitis is overusing the heel and ankle area. Walking, running or jumping can all contribute, which is why this condition is common in runners, ballet dancers and other athletes.
It can also be caused by medical conditions such as gout, and Haglund’s deformity.
Intermetatarsal bursitis can also be caused by overuse and injury, as well as wearing inappropriate footwear (especially pointed or high-heeled shoes), and structural issues with the feet.
Who is at risk of developing foot bursitis?
Anyone can develop bursitis, but you have an increased risk if you:
are over 65 years old
wear poorly fitted shoes
have other foot conditions such as hammer toes or bunions
have arthritis or gout
have sustained injuries to your foot
don’t stretch properly before exercising
participate in high-activity sports
have tight muscles
have a job that requires repeated movement and stress on the joints.
How is foot bursitis diagnosed?
Diagnosing bursitis will involve a physical examination to check for signs of tenderness, swelling and redness, as well as taking your medical history. We’ll also ask questions about the type of activities you do and what kind of pain you experience. Because foot bursitis has similar symptoms to other foot conditions, it may also be necessary to take an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI, or even remove some fluid from the bursa to confirm the diagnosis and check if there is an infection.
Treatment for foot bursitis
Fortunately, bursitis usually responds well to home-based, conservative treatments. The following is recommended:
We can also help you on the road to recovery by providing you with orthotics or other shoe inserts to help take the pressure off your foot while it heals. We can also advise you on exercises and stretches to aid healing and to reduce the risk of getting bursitis again.
Fortunately, bursitis will usually respond well to this kind of treatment. For severe pain that doesn’t respond to the above treatments, cortisone injections can be given, although this isn’t required very often. If after 6-12 months there is little or no improvement, surgery may be necessary. Fortunately however, the need for surgery is quite rare.
There are many things you can do to prevent bursitis. These include:
Like many foot conditions, the sooner you seek treatment the better the outcome, and the sooner you’ll be back on your feet — properly! If you’re experiencing any kind of pain in your feet, please make an appointment to see one of our friendly, experienced podiatrists.
frequently asked questions
Rubbing an anti-inflammatory cream like Voltaren may help ease your foot bursitis.
You can walk when you have foot bursitis to maintain your general health. However try limit the amount of prolonged weightbearing activities especially if you have severe symptoms.
When walking make sure to wear supportive footwear and avoid walking on uneven surfaces for prolong periods of times. If you have retrocalcaneal bursitis surfaces with sharp inclines may exacerbate the area.
There are some people who reported benefits from acupuncture for foot bursitis.
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