Bursitis: Fighting Against Friction
At some point in your life you may have experienced watching the oil light come on in your car while driving. Are you one who takes your car in right away or do you tempt fate until you “have time?” Oil is important to a car—it circulates throughout the engine to lubricate all of the moving parts. Without it, these moving parts would rub against each other and the friction would cause them to overheat, wear down, and eventually cause engine fail. There are a lot of moving parts inside your body as well, and similar to how oil works, bursa sacs work to reduce friction. When these sacs become irritated and inflamed, pain and swelling can result and movement can become painful. The condition is called bursitis and it is one reason for discomfort in the foot and ankle. Don’t wait until you “have time” to get it checked out.
Too Much Pressure
Our feet can withstand great amount of stress, but there is a limit before certain parts and pieces react to the pressure. The bursa are fluid-filled sacs that serve as cushions between bones, tendons and muscles around a joint. When you move, the sacs provide lubrication, so these parts are able to function smoothly without friction. Bursitis is a condition in which the bursa becomes irritated, resulting in pain and inflammation in varying degrees.
This condition is most commonly caused by repeated impact on the foot and overuse, although infections, arthritis, sudden injury, and aging can be contributing factors as well. At the back of your foot there is a bursa located between your Achilles tendon and heel bone. This is a common spot for irritation, and when it develops here it is called retrocalcaneal bursitis. The first joint of the big toe, the underside of the heel and the ankle area are secondary areas of the foot prone to this injury.
When a bursa becomes inflamed, you may be able to see a visible lump and it may be tender to the touch. You may feel and see swelling and redness. It is common to feel pain and stiffness, particularly with activity. Friction and impact causes extra fluid to build up, which adds extra pressure to the surrounding tissue—this is the source of the discomfort.
Similar to other overuse injuries, bursitis is one that requires intervention. It is not likely that you will experience any relief if you do not remove the source of friction. Fortunately, there are several conservative treatments available that are very effective.
After a thorough evaluation to positively diagnose the source of your pain, the first course of action is usually resting the affected foot while the bursa heals. Applying ice will aid in reducing pain and inflammation, and we may recommend taking anti-inflammatory medications as well. For women, the use of high heels is a risk factor for this condition, as the stiff heel cup can rub against and irritate the bursa at the back of the heel. For this reason, and in general during the healing process, it will be important to wear comfortable shoes that do not add any pressure to painful areas. Physical therapy can also help strengthen muscles in your foot to prevent recurrence.
If you are nervous about seeking treatment due to the possibility of surgery, don’t be; it is only in rare cases that the bursa needs to be surgically removed. Most patients who follow our conservative guidelines do very well throughout the healing process and can get back on their feet without pain in a relatively short amount of time.
We understand the frustration of foot pain and encourage you to not let your life be controlled by it. At Dallas Podiatry Works, our expert staff treats anyone at any age, and our thorough, state-of-the-art treatment methods will target the source of your pain and eliminate it. Contact Dr. Joel W. Brook and David R. Northcutt today if you have pain and swelling in a localized area. You can reach us in Dallas, TX at (972) 566-7474 or in Plano, TX at (972) 943-3323—you may also contact us directly through our website.