Bursitis: Inflamed Joint Cushions

BursitisCushions make great protectors. Think about wrapping fragile objects in bubble wrap for protection when you mail them, or the seat cushions people put on wooden chairs to make them more comfortable to use. Both of these padded layers help protect something from pressure. Your body has its own natural “cushions” to help protect your moving parts. Unfortunately, though, pressure can still damage your natural padding, leading to problems like bursitis.

Soft Tissue Motion Protectors

Bursitis is inflammation in a structure called a bursa. A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that sits between a moving soft tissue and a bone. You have one that sits between your heel and your Achilles tendon to smooth out the motion there, along with a few others that develop under other important lower limb joints. This little sac helps cushion and lubricate the area so your tendons or muscles move smoothly and without pain. Most of the time, this works well. Unfortunately, the same pressure your bursa is supposed to protect your tissues from can actually inflame the little sac. This is bursitis.

Typically the condition is the result of overuse and repetitive movements. Constant pressure and friction wears against the bursa and aggravates it. Getting older can increase your risks for it, too. The older you get, the more these little sacs break down and grow sensitive to damage. Occasionally a sudden injury can damage a bursa as well.

Pain Causers Instead of Pain Preventers

The more irritated and aggravated the little bursa becomes, the more painful it gets. Usually you get a dull, aching discomfort where the bursa sits. Your foot may feel stiff around the affected area. Often there is some degree of swelling there as well. The skin above the inflamed sac typically feels warm to the touch and may even appear red. Usually the pain feels worst when you’re active and reduces somewhat when you take a break. This is a progressive condition, so it won’t improve on its own. It will need treatment for you to recover.

Soothing the Inflammation

Bursitis can resemble other inflammation-based issues, so you need an accurate diagnosis to get the best possible treatment. Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen and the team will carefully examine your lower limbs to determine the problem. Our staff might use diagnostic images to rule out other possible conditions. Then we can help you move forward with the right foot care.

The most important step will be eliminating the inflammation. Since overwork and excessive pressure are normally the underlying causes, you’ll need to rest your foot to give it a chance to heal. Take a break from your activities to truly rest. At the same time, ice the painful area. Cold decreases inflammation and irritation. It also combats swelling. Stretching your soft tissues may reduce some of the pressure on your foot as well.

As you heal, you may need better footwear with more support to help your feet in the long-term. The right shoes minimize pressure on the lower limbs. Orthotics that cushion the vulnerable area can also work well. We may recommend anti-inflammatory medications if your discomfort is stubborn. Only in rare cases does anyone need surgery for bursitis.

You don’t have to let foot pain from bursitis limit what you can do in your daily life. Protective structures like bursa can go back to doing what they were meant to do—help your feet—with a little care. If you’re struggling with painful feet, contact our experts at Podiatry Associates, P.C. in Castle Pines and Parker, CO, for an appointment or more information. Just use our web request form or call (303) 805-5156 to reach us.

Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC