Foot Bursitis and You

Foot Bursitis: What Is It?

The word “bursa” means “small pouch”. The term refers to small pockets or pouches within the skin which are filled with fluid. These pouches may contain blood, pus, or other fluids. They are usually found under the armpit, but they can occur anywhere on the body.

Bursas are caused by various things, such as infection, trauma, or even injury. The skin becomes inflamed and painful, and you may have a fever, chills, and body aches. The bursa may be painful to touch, and it may drain pus or cause a foul odor.

What Are the Symptoms of Foot Bursitis?

The symptoms of bursitis can be mild or severe. They will usually appear slowly over the course of a few days or weeks. In some cases, however, the condition will appear suddenly and become much more serious.

The main symptom of bursitis is pain or soreness, both in the area of the affected bursa and in the area around it. You may feel pain when you walk or move about. You may feel this pain on one or both feet. You may notice that the bursa becomes red and swollen when you have been standing or walking.

This swelling often decreases pain.

You may experience one or more of the other symptoms of bursitis depending on the specific type you have.

How is it Diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine your symptoms and recent medical history to determine the exact cause of your pain. This will involve some tests.

A simple physical examination will usually indicate where the bursa is located. A bursa may look like a small sac that is filled with fluid. It may be small and inconspicuous or large and bulging. In some cases, the bursa will be so small that you may not notice it at all, especially if it is located under the skin on the inside of the upper part of your leg, for example.

Your doctor may press on the area to determine where the pain is.

Medical tests can determine whether you have an infection, which can be treated. Ultrasound examinations can identify which tissues around the bursa are inflamed, allowing your doctor to focus treatment on that region. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can identify whether you have a bursa that is larger or more severe than average. X-rays can determine whether you have experienced trauma to the area around the bursa.

How is it Treated?

Most bursitis pain is mild and can be treated at home. Most cases respond well to self-care, including rest, ice packs on the area, compression bandages, and elevation of the injured limb. Elevating your foot can help reduce swelling.

In some cases, however, you may need prescription medication or medical treatment. Over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help relieve pain. If you experience severe pain that does not go away, your doctor may give you prescription strength medication. Ice applied to the area can reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Compression devices or bandages can help reduce swelling and keep out fluids, such as blood or pus, that may be leaking from the area.

Be sure to report any continued pain, swelling, or fever to your doctor. These may indicate that the injury has become more severe and needs further examination or treatment.

What are the Risks of Bursitis?

Most cases of bursitis are mild and self-limiting. Occasionally, severe cases can become life-threatening. Rarely, infected bursae can become abscesses (infected areas that fill with pus), which can be life-threatening.

What are the Other Names for Bursitis?

The names for bursitis can differ depending on the part of the body that is affected. (See above)

When should I call the doctor?

If you have persistent pain in one or both feet that does not go away, if you have had this pain for more than two days, or if you develop a temperature of 103 F or more, contact your doctor.

Other than these more dire situations, the doctor can help you with bursitis. The prognosis is good for most types of bursitis, and the condition can usually be treated at home.

These symptoms may indicate that you need to make an emergency appointment:

Continuing pain despite home treatment.

Swelling or redness of the skin around the affected bursa.

Sources & references used in this article:

Lateral premalleolar bursitis as a result of sitting on the foot by S Avci, U Şayli – Foot & Ankle International, 2001 –

Chronic retrocalcaneal bursitis treated by resection of the calcaneus by P Angermann – Foot & ankle, 1990 –

Endoscopic bony and soft-tissue decompression of the retrocalcaneal space for the treatment of Haglund deformity and retrocalcaneal bursitis by FW Ortmann, AM McBryde – Foot & ankle international, 2007 –

A cohort-controlled trial of customized foot orthotics in trochanteric bursitis by R Ferrari – JPO: Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, 2012 –

Comparison of results of retrocalcaneal decompression for retrocalcaneal bursitis and insertional Achilles tendinosis with calcific spur by AD Watson, RB Anderson… – Foot & ankle …, 2000 –

Managing bursitis in the athlete: an overview by P McCarthy – The Physician and sportsmedicine, 1989 – Taylor & Francis

Invasive Retrocalcaneal Bursitis: A Report of Three Cases by E Ippolito, PT Ricciardi-Pollini – Foot & ankle, 1984 –