Foot bursitis. A sometimes poorly understood and often mis-treated condition.

What is foot bursitis?

To understand bursitis, you need to understand what a bursa is. So what exactly is a bursa? A bursa is a sack of fluid that accommodates the frictional stress of a tendon near a bony surface.

‘Bursitis’ is a latin term and it literally means ‘inflammation of the ‘bursa’

What are the most commonly used strategies to treat foot bursitis?

For a long time, the medical profession has focussed primarily on reducing the inflammation and therefore pain within the bursa. There are many ways to effectively reduce inflammation:
– Rest or activity modification.
– Antiinflammatory strategies including medication such as tablets, pills and ‘rub on gels’ and icing techniques.
– Immobilisation including splinting, bracing, slinging and taping.

What causes foot bursitis?

Increased stress/ friction from the tendon applied to the bursa can cause bursitis. Given the nature of how the injury occurs it is common that bursitis will also present with signs and symptoms of tendinopathy or even other painful conditions close to or around the area of pain.

What is the best way of treating foot bursitis?

The best way to resolve bursitis long term is to NOT focus on the inflammation. Rather focussing on the CAUSE of the inflammation is what gets the best long term results.

We already know that bursitis is caused from increased stress/ friction, so what is causing this increased stress? Well, that can depend on who you are and what you do. In some cases it is related to level of activity, so it might be that you have recently started exercising more or have recently started a workplace activity requiring repetitive movement. 

The interesting thing is that foot bursitis often affects one foot more than the other or only one foot at a time. In these cases, it is very important to consider your biomechanics or ‘the way that you move’. People can often use one foot or leg more than the other and this can lead to increased risk of injury, not just in the foot, but also in the ankle, leg, knee and hip of the same leg.

Orthotic therapy is an effective and fast way to reduce the stress on the bursa and even up the movement in the legs in these cases. Not only can the orthotic reduce the pain, it can also reduce the risk of injury as the body becomes more evenly balanced and energy efficient.

Depending on your goals, you may want to continue your movement or maintain your current level of work so combining a strength and conditioning program into management will offer choice and freedom of footwear and lack of reliance on the orthotic within time.

For more information relevant to foot bursitis. Have a look at this recourse on forefoot pain:

Written by:
Daniel Monteleone
Podiatrist, Strength and Conditioning Coach,

Foot & Ankle Pain
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