What is foot bursitis?
Bursitis is a very common foot condition that can cause pain and discomfort with every step. Bursitis can occur in the toe joints, the side of the foot, the heel and around the ankle. Although there is only a small number of bursae that occur naturally in the foot, the body creates more bursae in areas where pressure and friction of great. As we walk, run or jump, the ground surface and the shoes we wear play an important role in how much trauma our feet experience. Every step can cause a small amount of damage to a particular area in the foot which can increase the risk of bursitis.
Bursae in the Plantar and Toes
Since the feet take such a tremendous load as we go about our daily tasks, there are several points in the foot that can develop bursitis due to added pressure and rubbing. The main bursae in the foot that become affected by bursitis include the metatarsal bursa, the metatarsophalangeal bursa, and the calcaneal bursa, however, other bursae can develop and become inflamed where the foot requires excess cushioning.
The metatarsal bursa is located at the base of the toes on the bottom of the foot. This bursa can be irritated when one metatarsal bone takes more load than the others. When this happens, the soft tissue between the bone and the skin becomes compressed and inflammation in the bursa can begin. Walking barefoot on a hardwood or tiled floor without cushioning will increase pain noticeably due to the direct pressure on the metatarsal bursa.
Bursitis can occur on the top of the toes as well. Those suffering from conditions like hammertoe often develop bursitis as a secondary condition. An abnormal toe joint can cause excessive rubbing against shoes. The constant rubbing will make the toe tender, swollen and red as bursitis sets in. Wearing shoes is painful and even the pressure from wearing socks can cause pain and discomfort.
Intermetatarsal bursitis occurs when the tiny bursa between the toes (metatarsals) become compressed. Tight and narrow shoes can be the cause, however, it can occur naturally as we age and the arches in our feet begin to flatten. As the arches fall, the metatarsals put more pressure on the bursae that separate the toes. In this situation, swelling is rare but the pain usually travels right up to the toes. Wearing wider shoes and supports in your shoes can decrease the pressure on the bursae and help to alleviate pain.
The metatarsophalangeal bursa is located on the inner part of the foot near the big toe. This bursa is a common spot for bursitis to develop as it is where a bunion (enlarged metatarsal bone) causes excess rubbing. Naturally, a bursa by a bunion can become inflamed with the excess friction in the area. Patients suffering from bursitis in the metatarsophalangeal bursa often have difficulties finding shoes that do not exacerbate the pain and sometimes resort to open shoes that do not cover the painful bursa.
At the bottom of the heel lies the calcaneal bursa. Bursitis is common in this bursa due to the thinning of the fat pad in the heel over time. The micro-trauma the heel undergoes with every step eventually becomes too much and the bursa becomes inflamed. This type of bursitis can be difficult to treat due to the constant pressure on the heel. Without proper rest and rehabilitation, bursitis may become a chronic problem in the heel. Heel cushions and prescription orthotics with extra foam in the heel can help to relieve the pressure but as with these other types of foot bursitis, cold compression and BFST® therapy are recommended for a faster recovery and to prevent bursitis from becoming a life long nuisance.
What are the Symptoms of Foot Bursitis
The most recognizable sign of foot bursitis is swelling caused by the enlargement of the bursa. This swelling is the build up of excess fluid in the bursa.
When you suffer from bursitis you will usually feel pain in the area of the inflamed bursa. If tendonitis is also present, the pain can radiate away from the bursa. Direct pressure on an inflamed bursa will increase the pain and should be avoided if possible.
As the bursa becomes more inflamed you will experience swelling and warmth. In severe cases the bursa will appear as a bump and is usually red, appearing extremely tender and painful. Swelling can cause difficulties moving your toes, foot, or ankle as the range of motion in the joints of you foot be affected.
You may also experience weakness in the tendons and muscles surrounding the bursa as the pain worsens and the inflammation in the area spreads.
It is important to treat bursitis in the early stages to reduce the symptoms, minimize damage and maintain motion and strength in your foot. Resting your foot, using proper cushioning and comfortable footwear, and reducing any activities that add pressure on your bursa will help to reduce your pain and bursitis inflammation. When at rest, the fluid in the bursa decreases, helping to relieve the pressure and pain. By treating your foot bursitis in the early stages with cold compression therapy and Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™, you are more likely to prevent long-term damage and chronic conditions from setting in.
What causes Foot Bursitis?
Bursitis is caused when an inflammation occurs and excess fluid builds up in one or several bursae. This build up of excess fluid can be caused by many different factors. The biggest factor is the bursa becoming inflamed due to strain or something (like a muscle, bone or tendon) rubbing against it too hard.
Who is at Risk? Abnormal pronation, or how much your foot rolls when you step, can cause the joints to move in ways they are not suppose to adding pressure on the bursae. This can cause irritation and inflammation and can start to cause pain in the bursae as well as in the surrounding tissue. Twisting your ankle the incorrect way or moving too quickly can cause the bursa to pinch resulting in an inflamed bursa sac as well.
Wearing uncomfortable or improper footwear throughout the day or while playing sports also increase your chance of bursitis developing in your feet and toes. Wearing proper fitting shoes with cushioning will make your feet feel better and reduce your risk of bursitis.
Other causes of bursitis in the foot include:
- Overusing a joint - This can cause the bursa to become inflamed through being used too much.
- Prolonged stress on a bursa - This can cause the surrounding tissue to pinch the bursa, which can cause an inflammation.
- Activities/Sports (such as long walks or ice skating) - These can cause too much stress to be put on the bursae.
- Twisting a joint/Moving a joint too rapidly - This can pinch the bursa, resulting in inflammation.
- Alternately, bursitis can be caused by bacteria. In this case, it is known as septic bursitis. Septic bursitis is usually accompanied by a fever due to the infection in the bursa and must be treated with antibiotics.
- In any case, the first thing you should do if you think you have bursitis is to see your doctor for a diagnosis and advice on a treatment that is right for you.
Do You Really Have Foot Bursitis?
Visiting your doctor when you have Achilles pain is always recommended, as there are many possible issues that can happen within the foot. Sometimes, one set of symptoms can result in multiple diagnoses.
Morton's neuroma. Burning pain in the ball of the foot that may radiate into the toes. The pain generally intensifies with activity or wearing shoes. You sometimes feel that you are "walking on a marble," and you have persistent pain in the ball of your foot. You may also have numbness in the toes. The thickening of the tissue that surrounds the digital nerve leading to the toes. Caused by irritation, trauma or excessive pressure and the morton's neuroma most frequently develops between the third and fourth toes.
Metatarsalgia. Pain in the "ball of your foot," that area between your arch and the toes. This ball-of-the-foot pain is often located under the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th long bones of the foot (metatarsal heads) or sometime more at the base of the big toe (1st metatarsal head). A common overuse injury, persistent stress can lead to chronic irritation and inflammation of the bone covering and surrounding tissues, such as ligaments and tendons.
Sesamoiditis will occur when there is pain and inflammation in the sesamoid tendons that encapsulate the sesamoid bones. You may experience pain that will come and go in the ball of the foot just beneath your big toe joint. This pain will build-up over time rather than happen over-night. Swelling of the ball of the foot and bruising may or may not be present. You may notice range of motion changes and start having a hard time bending or straightening the big toe.
Plantar Fasciitis pain associated with plantar fasciitis normally starts as a dull ache and then progresses to a sharp, knife-like pain or constant throbbing feeling that is worse when you put weight on your foot. The most tender areas tend to be in the center of your heel and along the inside and bottom of your foot towards your toes, where your heel and arch meet. It is worsened when you move your toes upward. Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of the Plantar Fascia, the tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes, and supports the arch of your foot.
How Do You Treat Foot Bursitis?
What You Can Do!
Relieving the symptoms of bursitis initially focuses on taking the pressure off the bursa. This can be done with proper cushioning, inserts, or footwear but may require surgery if it is a bone formation problem (i.e. Huglund's Deformity). If your bursitis is caused by an infection (septic bursitis), the doctor will probably drain the bursa sac with a needle and prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
For non-infectious bursitis, the preliminary treatment starts with non-operative options such as cold compression therapy and Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™. Surgery to remove the inflamed bursa is normally not required for bursitis, however if you fail to see improvement with the conservative treatments, your physician may recommend surgery to remove the bursa completely. Although this removes the problem of an inflamed bursa, you are left with less cushioning in your joint which can lead to a host of other conditions.
The most important factor in healing bursitis is resting your foot. This can be difficult when you have to carry on with daily activities, but resting and elevating your foot whenever you can is recommended. During your recovery you will probably have to modify or avoid the activities that stress your bursa until your pain and inflammation settle.
Treatments should involve decreasing swelling, relieving pain and stress on the foot, correcting any biomechanical dysfunction (over-pronation or flat feet), treating scar tissue, and then restoring strength and movement. If you are performing an activity that could cause further trauma to the bursa, it is recommended that you protect the area with padding and/or proper footwear to prevent further irritation or damage.
Freezie Wrap® Cold Therapy
The R.C.C.E. Treatment Philosophy. This treatment philosophy is used to decrease inflammation and relieve pain of bursitis quickly when it is inflamed and painful.
- Rest and limit your activity, to decrease swelling and minimize further inflammation in the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa and/or retrocalcaneal bursa.
- Cool the area of the inflamed bursa to help reduce blood flow and fluid build up.
- Compress the area if possible by adding light pressure to minimize swelling (make sure the wrap is snug, but not too tight as it could cause numbness, tingling or more pain).
- Elevate your foot to relieve the pressure from swelling and allow fluid to drain from your foot.
Applying cold to your inflamed bursa will help decrease the swelling and redness around it. Cold compression therapy will also help to numb the pain in your heel and help to control the inflammation.
Cooling the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa and/or retrocalcaneal bursa as needed throughout the day, for approximately 15 - 20 minutes at a time, is recommended.
The cold compression Freezie Wrap® can be used to apply cold in a safe, convenient and effective way - and the gel pack is reusable. Only the Freezie Wrap® gel pack is charged in the fridge. This means the cooling temperature of the gel pack will not cause cold burns, or cryoburn, on your skin like ice or freezie charged gel packs can. You can also treat yourself for longer periods of time so you get lasting pain relief.
The wrap is soft and adjustable so it fits your foot properly, without irritating the bursa, and allows you to adjust the compression. This is important when treating an inflamed bursa because too much pressure can cause you further pain. You control how much pressure the bursa receives so you can benefit from the compression to hold the cold where you need it, without increasing your pain.
Click here to learn more about Cold Compression Freezie Wraps®
Applying cold to your tender bursa is the first step in treating your bursitis. Next, you can begin using the Inferno Wrap® to accelerate the healing process.
Inferno Wrap® Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™
Once the inflammation of your bursitis has been reduced with the Freezie Wrap® cold compression therapy treatment it is time to start BFST® treatments with the Inferno Wrap®. Regular treatments with the Inferno Wrap® will improve blood flow and improve the elasticity of your surrounding soft tissue. Your body needs a fresh supply of blood to improve the health of your tissue and get your bursae, plantar fascia, and/or Achilles tendon back to normal.
Unfortunately, when you are suffering from bursitis it is painful to walk and move your foot normally. When you limit movement in your foot the blood flow is reduced, starving your tissue of the necessary oxygen and nutrients. The trick is to find a way to increase blood flow without causing pain and/or further inflaming the bursae. This is where Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ (BFST®) becomes a powerful tool.
BFST® compliments your body's natural healing process by promoting the flow of blood to your foot while you give it the rest it needs. The Inferno Wrap® uses a patented process to generate the same energy that is part of the sun's spectrum of light, the same energy that is necessary to all living things for optimum health.
The energy emitted from the Energy Web® stimulates blood flow to your foot, more than you body would ever be able to generate on it's own, giving your body the boost it needs to continue the reconditioning process.
The healing energy reaches deep into your bursae, tendons, ligaments, and fascia to speed tissue repair, whisk away the toxins and dead cells, and rejuvenate your foot tissues for improved elasticity.
Click here to learn more about the Inferno Wrap®
With these easy to use home therapy wraps - the Inferno Wrap® and the Freezie Wrap®, you will notice significantly reduced pain and an incredible improvement in your foot pain and range of motion.
During your recovery, you may have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your foot until your pain and inflammation settle, and you gain more mobility and strength. The more diligent you are with your rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results.