Foot and ankle tendonitis and bursitis

Person with ice pack on ankle

Tendons are bands of tissue at the end of each muscle that attach to the bone. When they become overused or injured, you get inflammation around the tendon, called tendonitis. If left untreated, tendonitis can lead to continued inflammation, chronic pain and dysfunction, and sometimes tearing or partial tearing of the tendons.

Bursas are small, fluid-filled sacs that form cushions between your bones and other body parts like muscles, tendons or skin. When a bursa becomes injured or inflamed, it is called bursitis. Bursitis can cause muscle deterioration and limited movement in your ankles or feet.

Tendonitis and bursitis can cause swelling and inflammation in joints that are injured or overused. As mentioned, overuse, strain and frequent, repetitive motion may cause bursitis and tendonitis. ​However, in some cases, infection, sudden injury or abnormal foot structure may also be the cause.

The most common types of tendonitis and bursitis in the feet and ankles are:

Achilles tendinitis—affects your Achilles tendon—a fibrous band of tissue that links the muscles in your calf to your heel. When your Achilles tendon becomes swollen, inflamed and irritated, it is called Achilles tendinitis.

Flat feet—happens if the tendons of your feet become loose or worn out due to aging, injuries or illness. Flatfoot is also called posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction or PTTD. It’s one of the most common problems of the ankles and feet.

High arches—these can make you prone to overuse injuries. Because a smaller portion of your foot touches the ground, high arches make poor shock absorbers, which can cause issues like pain and swelling in your feet and ankles.

The world-class team of specialists at The Christ Hospital Health Network conducts a comprehensive medical history and physical exam to begin your diagnosis. They work together to develop an individualized plan of action to diagnose and treat the problems you are experiencing with your ankles and feet.

Diagnostic tests may include:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)—uses a magnet, radio frequencies and computer to produce detailed pictures of organs and structures inside your body.

X-ray—invisible electromagnetic energy beams that make images of your bones and their surrounding soft tissues.

Ankle and foot tendonitis and bursitis treatment

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we emphasize non-invasive treatments that reduce pain and let you get back to your day-to-day life. The first step is to stop doing, at least temporarily, the movement or activity that is causing the problem.

The RICE method can provide relief:

  • Rest the joint

  • Ice the affected area

  • Compress the area with an elastic bandage

  • Elevate the joint

If additional treatment is needed, it may include:

Physical therapy—stretching is an important aspect of treating tendonitis issues. This can be done initially with a home exercise program. If that does not resolve the problem, sometimes your physician will refer you to a physical therapist for more aggressive therapies and other types of treatment.

  • Anti-inflammatory medication—oral or topical medications that reduce swelling and inflammation that cause pain.

  • Cortisone injections—an anti-inflammatory steroid is injected into the joint to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Surgery—to repair tears and other damage.

  • Ultrasound—to warm deep tissues, improve blood flow and provide relief.

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we provide exceptional care for tendonitis and bursitis of the ankle and foot.