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Family Foot Care & Surgery, LLC

Bursitis: When Protective Tissue Needs Protecting

People have used lubricants to improve movement in machines throughout history. We still oil parts and pieces so they glide over each other instead of grinding and causing damage. Your body has natural lubricants inside it, like bursae, to protect its own moving parts. These little structures themselves aren’t immune to damage, though; irritation can lead to painful bursitis.

Painful Inflammation Problems

Bursitis is irritation and inflammation in a support structure called a bursa. This is a fluid-filled sac that sits between bones and the tendons, muscles, and skin around them. It acts as a protective layer, so friction from your movements don’t cause injury to the soft tissues. However, repetitive motions and stress can damage the bursa itself, painfully inflaming the sac.

In your feet, you can develop the problem under the ball of the foot or, more commonly, behind the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus, or heel bone. The bursa there is meant to protect the Achilles from rubbing against your heel, but repetitive pressure and hard impacts from your steps can aggravate it. Usually this happens with poor conditioning or insufficient warmups before an activity, so athletes have a particularly high risk. This is also common if you have a bony protrusion on your calcaneus called a Haglund’s deformity.

Wherever the root of the problem, it causes the affected area to feel achy or stiff. Usually the spot is sensitive to pressure and movement. Sometimes it can appear red and swollen, too. Typically the discomfort grows over time as the irritation in the bursa builds.

Relieving the Aggravated Tissues

Bursitis needs targeted treatment to manage the condition and eliminate the pain. Since it can closely resemble other problems, you need to have your feet carefully examined to identify the real source of your discomfort. Dr. Sanjay Patel will check your feet and use tests to rule out other possible diagnoses. Once the problem has been identified, you can begin treatment to relieve the problem.

Conservative methods tend to be very effective for this issue. You’ll need to rest the affected foot to reduce the irritation from pressure and friction, as well as work to decrease the inflammation. Icing the foot and keeping it elevated can help with this. Our staff may recommend medication to help lower the inflammation and control the pain as well. Then, as you recover, physical therapy exercises can recondition your foot to handle the stress of your activities. If these conservative methods are not successful, you may need direct injections of medications to help relieve the irritation. Very rarely is surgery ever used to manage this condition.

Bursitis is a painful problem that can interrupt your activities, but it doesn’t have to keep you from them altogether. You can treat the issue and alleviate the discomfort conservatively. Don’t wait until you’re limping to seek help for your hurting limbs. Contact Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. in Milford and Hamden, CT, for an appointment to take care of your problem. Use our online contact form or call to reach us: (203) 876-7736 for the Milford office, or (203) 288-4055 for our Hamden location.

Dr. Sanjay V. Patel
Dr. Patel has over 20 years of experience in the field of podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.