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Heel Bursitis Home Treatment Guide

a man in a white shirt and blue and pink suspenders
By Babafemi Adebajo
Siphokazi Mdidimba
Edited by Siphokazi Mdidimba

Published July 2, 2022.

A woman cupping and massaging her painful heel

Swelling and pain at the back of the heel may be a sign of heel bursitis. Whenever it occurs, it makes walking difficult and uncomfortable. The symptoms can make it uncomfortable or even difficult to walk. Heel bursitis is the inflammation of any of the two liquid-filled sacs located at the back of the heel.

Most times, overuse or sudden excessive strain of the heel is the common cause of heel bursitis. This can happen when there is a sudden increase in the volume of physical activity without a proper warm-up. This for instance can happen in sports such as golf and athletics. Heel pain from golf is said to be one of the most common pains amongst golfers. If you play and are looking for orthotics for your shoes, check out Upstep's orthotics for golfers. Exercising with ill-fitting shoes or wearing high-heeled shoes can also cause heel bursitis.

Risks of Not Treating Heel Bursitis

Heel bursitis can be left untreated. However, it should not be left untreated. If left untreated, it can cause enlargement or thickening of the bursa, leading to chronic pain and inflammation. Also, heel bursitis can cause muscle atrophy because it makes walking difficult, restricting physical motion in the joints.

How Long Heel Bursitis Takes to Heal

The recovery time after heel bursitis depends on the severity of the inflammation, the speed of intervention, and the kind of intervention. Treatment for bursitis can take any of the following ways:

  • Rest Since heel bursitis is largely due to overloading of the heel, getting off the heel and resting the foot should bring some relief.
  • Icing Ice helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. To use ice, wrap the ice in a towel instead of applying it directly on the skin to prevent skin injury.
  • Gentle exercises Heel pain exercises that stretch the Achilles tendon are reportedly beneficial for treating heel bursitis.
  • Orthotics You can also use orthotics for heel pain. Orthotics will reduce the strain on the bursa by redistributing the pressure in the foot when walking and providing cushioning and shock absorption to the heel.
  • Footwear Improper shoes will cause pain. Therefore, to treat heel bursitis, you must wear shoes that fit properly to prevent adding extra stress to the heel.
  • Steroid injection If the pain is too severe, you can administer a corticosteroid injection to deal with pain.
  • Surgery As a last resort, surgery can be an option when conservative treatment fails. The surgical approach could involve either fluid aspiration or bursectomy.

With these treatments, you should see improvements in 2-8 weeks, depending on the severity of bursitis. If you want to remain active during this period, you can opt for low-impact activities like swimming. If the symptoms do not move after four weeks, it is time to visit your primary care physician, podiatrist, or orthopedist for expert advice.

Best Stretches for Treating Heel Bursitis

There are contrasting views on whether stretches can help treat heel bursitis. However, stretching helps heel bursitis. They can help relieve pain and reduce the impingement on the bursae. Different types of stretches can be performed for heel bursitis. We mention three below:

Achilles Tendon Stretch

A gradual stretch of the Achilles tendon can relieve the impingement on the bursae. To perform this stretch:

  • Stand close to a wall with the affected foot in front of the other
  • Lean forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in the Achilles tendon. Ensure the knee remains extended.
  • Maintain the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat the set at least ten times, three times daily.

Bilateral or Single Heel Drop

This stretch helps stretch the calf muscles. To perform this stretch:

  • Stand on the edge of an elevated platform, such as the last step on a stairway. The heels should not be supported so they can move freely up and down.
  • Slowly rise onto your tiptoes and then lower the heel as far as possible.
  • Repeat twenty times.

Tiptoe Standing

Perhaps the easiest of all the stretches is the tiptoe stand. To perform this exercise:

  • Stand upright while keeping both legs straight.
  • Rise onto your tiptoes with both feet.
  • Slowly lean onto the affected leg, transferring weight onto the affected leg.
  • Repeat the exercise at least fifteen times in one set.

Can Walking Make Bursitis Worse?

The bursa is found where the Achilles tendon connects to the heel bone. The more you walk, the more likely the bursae will become irritated and inflamed. Hence, walking is not recommended with heel bursitis as it can cause symptoms to flare up. Instead, you can rest your foot. For more information on the Achilles tendon, take a look at our post on the Best Exercises for Your Achilles Tendon.