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What is Achilles Tendon Bursitis?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2018
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Achilles tendon bursitis an injury that often affects runners and other athletes. It causes pain in the heel and presents symptoms that are similar to other problems such as Achilles tendinitis. The injury is caused when the bursa — a small fluid sack that helps to lubricate the joint — becomes inflamed. Symptoms of Achilles tendon bursitis include pain when running and swelling over the injured area.

A bursa sack is filled with fluid to help to keep joints lubricated and able to slide smoothly. When these fluid sacks become damaged — often through overuse and repetitive strain — they can cause pain. Achilles tendon bursitis is caused by a small bursa that is located between the heel bone and Achilles tendon at the back of the foot.

There are several symptoms of Achilles tendon bursitis. The most common is pain over the bursa that is made worse by walking or running uphill. The area may be tender to touch and also appear swollen. Often runners first notice this when trying to put on a tight pair of shoes. Also, the area on either side of the bursa may feel soft and springy to touch. Although many of these symptoms are similar to tendinitis of the Achilles tendon the injuries are not the same.

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Treatment for Achilles tendon bursitis usually starts with resting the injured joint. An athlete can speed up the process by icing the area regularly in order to reduce inflammation. It’s important to not apply ice onto the skin without a barrier such as a tweol as this can cause ice burns and frostbite. Ice should usually be applied for between eight to ten minutes per setting.

A physical therapist who specializes in sports injuries is often required to treat the condition. Aside from prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, a therapist often will also advise the patient on the best course of rehabilitation. This may involve stretching muscles around the injured area to increase flexibility and strengthening certain muscles in order to avoid the problem returning. It’s important for the athlete to not perform any activities that cause pain during the rehabilitation process.

In the worst cases, an injection of steroids may be required. This is usually followed by a rest period before a gradual return to exercise. The steroids don’t act as a painkiller but instead act to reduce inflammation. In the most persistent cases surgery may be required although this is generally quite rare.

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