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Ankle Bursitis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

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 are used to check for infection or disease that may be causing your bursitis.
  • X-ray or MRI pictures may show bone position problems, arthritis, or a fracture. Contrast liquid may be used to help your ankle show up better in the pictures. Tell the provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. 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.
  • A fluid culture is used to check for infection. Healthcare providers use a needle to drain fluid from your bursa. The fluid will be sent to a lab to be tested. Removal of bursa fluid may also help relieve your symptoms.

How is ankle bursitis treated?

  • Medicines:
    • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
    • Antibiotics help prevent or fight a bacterial infection.
    • A steroid injection helps decrease pain and swelling.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove your bursa or part of your ankle bone. Surgery is only done when other treatments do not work.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage or prevent ankle bursitis?

  • Wear shoe inserts as directed. 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 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.
  • Apply ice on your ankle. Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the bag with a towel before you place it on your ankle. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day, or as directed.
  • Apply heat on your ankle. Heat helps decrease pain and stiffness. Apply heat for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day, or as directed.
  • Go to physical therapy, if directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • 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 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 call my doctor?

  • 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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