Why Does my Ankle Hurt? Could it be Bursitis?
I see a lot of patients with bursitis, so it’s a subject that’s worth talking about. Bursitis is the name given to the inflammation of a bursa. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as cushioning for the various bones, tendons and muscles that make up your joints. Normally a bursa has just a small amount of fluid in it, but when injured or stressed, the bursa may become inflamed and fill up with too much fluid resulting in the painful condition known as bursitis. The body may also create bursal sacs in response to tissue damage.
Bursitis in the Ankle
Bursitis of the ankle is caused by inflammation of the bursa at the back of the heel bone. This bursa is located where the large Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It’s possible to have Achilles bursitis and Achilles tendonitis (inflamed tendon) at the same time.
What Causes Bursitis in the Ankle?
A common cause of ankle bursitis is chronic stress associated with a weight-bearing activity on a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete. Other causes include:
- Beginning a very intense workout schedule without easing into it.
- Suddenly increasing an activity level without undergoing appropriate conditioning.
- A history of arthritis caused by inflammation.
- Blunt force trauma.
What are the Symptoms of Bursitis in the Ankle?
If your ankle is hurting, there are several signs that you may be suffering from bursitis, including:
- Limping and decreased mobility – your ankle feels stiff.
- Pain or tenderness in the back of the ankle which may be worse at the beginning of exercise or when running uphill.
- Redness and warmth in the skin over the heel and swelling on the back of the heel.
What Can I Do if I Have Bursitis in my Ankle?
- You must give your Achilles a break if you want the inflamed bursa to heal. Rest your ankle as much as possible to help decrease any swelling and prevent the bursitis from getting worse.
- Apply ice to constrict blood vessels in the affected area and decrease inflammation.
- After two or three days, switch between icing and applying heat to help decrease any remaining pain and stiffness.
Treatment by a Podiatrist for Ankle Bursitis
If your bursitis doesn’t seem to be improving, make an appointment with a podiatrist. Professional treatment may include the following:
- Steroid shots to decrease swelling and pain.
- Shoe inserts with a cutout around the tender area or shoes with a reinforced heel counter to provide better heel control.
- In extreme cases, it may be necessary to surgically remove the bursa or part of the ankle bone.
How Can I Prevent Bursitis from Returning?
Your podiatrist may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapists are trained to treat bursitis. Therapy may include ultrasound treatment to increase blood flow to the injured area, massage to stretch the tissues and increase blood flow, and exercises to stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon after the bursitis has healed. Here are some other precautions you can take.
- Don’t run if you still have pain. When you start running again, start slowly and avoid running at a fast pace either uphill or downhill.
- Avoid doing exercises on very hard surfaces.
- Do gentle stretches before exercising to warm up your muscles and cool-down exercises when finished to loosen muscles and alleviate stress on the heel.
- Use felt or soft foam heel pads to help reduce pressure on your heel.
- Wear well-fitting shoes. Consider getting custom-made orthotics.
How Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle can Help with Bursitis
We see many people with bursitis and we know how to treat it. If you have ankle bursitis and have had enough of being in pain, make an appointment with us. We will create a plan to address your ankle pain so you can get back to your normal life. There’s no need to suffer ankle pain any longer.