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Ankle Bursitis


What is ankle bursitis?

Ankle bursitis is inflammation of the bursa in your ankle. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between a bone and a tendon. A tendon is a cord of strong tissue that connects muscles to bones.

What causes ankle bursitis?

  • Direct injury to your ankle
  • Pressure to your ankle, such as when you exercise on uneven ground or wear poor-fitting shoes
  • Overuse of the ankle, such as when you walk or run for a long time
  • Bacterial infection
  • Medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout

What are the signs and symptoms of ankle bursitis?

  • Pain or tenderness in the back of your ankle
  • Limping
  • Decreased movement or stiffness of your ankle
  • Red, warm, swollen skin over your ankle or heel

How is ankle bursitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your ankle and ask about your injury or activities. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood drawn to check for infection. Healthcare providers may also check for diseases that may be causing your bursitis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • X-rays: These pictures will show bone position problems, arthritis, or a fracture.
  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your ankle. An MRI may show tissue damage or arthritis. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Fluid culture: Healthcare providers use a needle to drain fluid from your bursa. The fluid will be sent to a lab and tested for infection. Removal of bursa fluid may also help relieve your symptoms.

How is ankle bursitis treated?

  • Medicine:
    • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly.
    • Antibiotics: These help fight an infection caused by bacteria. You may need antibiotics if your bursitis is caused by infection.
    • Steroid injection: This shot will help decrease pain and swelling.
  • Surgery: You may need surgery to remove your bursa or part of your ankle bone. Surgery is only done when other treatments do not work.

What are the risks of ankle bursitis?

The infection may spread to nearby joints. You may develop long-term bursitis. This may include pain and severe limitation of movement.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Shoe inserts: Healthcare providers may give you shoe inserts with a cutout around the tender area. You may need to wear shoes with a reinforced heel counter (back of the shoe). This will give better heel control. You may need other shoe inserts, such as wedges, to raise your heel so it does not press against the back of the shoe.
  • Rest: Rest your ankle as much as possible to decrease pain and swelling. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day, as directed.
  • Heat: Heat helps decrease pain and stiffness. Apply heat on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day, as directed.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

How can I prevent ankle bursitis?

  • Stretch, warm up, and cool down: Always stretch and do warmup and cool-down exercises before and after you exercise. This will help loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your ankle. Rest between workouts.
  • Wear proper shoes: Wear shoes that fit properly and support your feet. You may need to wear shoe inserts called orthotics. Orthotics help position your foot correctly as you walk or exercise.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain and swelling increase.
  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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