Bursitis is a condition that causes inflammation in the fluid-filled bursa sacs in your body that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles around the joints. It commonly occurs around joints that do repetitive motion such as the shoulders, elbows, and hips, but it can also affect the knees, heels of the feet, balls of the feet, or even the big toe. Bursitis causes pain that often subsides with rest and time but can flare-up and require further treatment by an experienced podiatristTreating bursitis

Common Causes and Signs

Bursitis is caused by repetitive motion of a joint. Activities such as raking leaves, shoveling snow, or throwing a baseball can all lead to bursitis. It can also be caused by sports such as golf or tennis. In addition, bursitis can develop due to an infection, sudden trauma or injury, or direct pressure to the feet from wearing shoes that are too tight or have a high heel. Other causes of bursitis in the feet or toes are:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Not warming up properly

Having a condition such as arthritis or gout can put you at a greater risk for bursitis. Other risk factors are being over 50, having a job or hobby that causes repetitive joint motion, and being an athlete.

The most common sign of bursitis in the feet or toes is pain in the joint when you’re walking or running. You may also experience a limited range of motion, stiffness in the joint, pain when on your toes, or have pain if you touch the inflamed area. You can also have symptoms such as:

  • Joint redness
  • Warmth
  • Swelling

If you experience fever, chills, or pain that lasts for more than two weeks, it can indicate an infection has set into the joint, and you should seek immediate medical attention.

Diagnosing and Treating Bursitis

If you are experiencing signs of bursitis in your feet or big toe, consult with a podiatrist for an evaluation. Bursitis is often diagnosed through a physical exam, but the following may also be done to check for infection and to rule out other causes of the pain:

  • Imaging tests such as an X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI
  • Blood test to check for infection
  • Fluid sample from affected bursa to check for infection

Bursitis is commonly treated with rest. You will want to avoid the repetitive activity that caused the problem and pain, so the joint has time to heal. You can also try the following options at home:

  • Elevate the foot to reduce swelling
  • Ice to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Heat to help with pain
  • Over-the-counter pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication
  • Splint or brace to keep the foot from moving
  • Cane or walker to help take pressure off the foot or toe when walking

If at-home treatments do not provide relief, your podiatrist may recommend treatments such as:

  • Antibiotics to treat an infection in the joint
  • Steroid injection to help reduce inflammation and eliminate pain
  • Physical therapy to help regain range of motion by strengthening the foot or toe muscles
  • Surgery for reoccurring cases where the bursa sac may need to be repaired or fluid may need to be drained from the sac

Bursitis can recur after treatment and can happen in the same joint. Repeated cases of bursitis can cause damage to the bursa and affect the joint’s function and mobility.

Are You Experiencing Foot & Ankle Pain in Alexandria, VA?

If you are experiencing foot and ankle pain,you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Foot pain is never something you just have to put up with. If your feet are aching, out of alignment, or just aren't holding up to the wear and tear of modern living, Capital Podiatry Associates can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? We offer telemedicine and valet medicineContact us online or call our Alexandria office at 703-560-3773.


Leland T. Gilmore, DPM
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Dr. Leland Gilmore is a compassionate and experienced foot and ankle specialist.
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