Woman rubbing elbow with bursitis pain.

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is painful inflammation of a fluid filled sac called a bursa. These sacs provide lubrication for areas around joints, bones, and ligaments. Their function is to facilitate movement and act as a cushion between tissues that move against each other. At times due to over-use or other pathology, these can become inflamed causing increased pain. When inflammation occurs, the bursa becomes filled with fluid. Any movement against this or direct pressure on the bursa will cause pain. There are over 150 known bursas in the human body. Therefore, there are multiple areas of the body that bursitis can occur. The most common are in the shoulder (subacromial or subdeltoid bursitis), hip (greater trochanter bursitis), knee (pes anserine bursitis), and elbow (olecranon bursitis).

How do you get Bursitis? Risk Factors!

The most common cause is prolonged or repeated pressure on the bursa around the joint. Other factors that can increase your risk include age, certain occupations, and other disease processes such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. In some cases, being overweight can be an added factor to developing bursitis of the hip and knee.

How is Bursitis diagnosed?

Bursitis is diagnosed after a provider reviews your medical history and performs a physical exam. The physical exam is an assessment of your pain including the onset, location, and severity of it. To confirm their findings, a physician may order or recommend:

  1. X-rays to rule out other potential conditions
  2. Ultrasound or MRI to highlight the swollen bursae
  3. For suspected infection, a sample of fluid from the swollen area may be taken for further analysis.

What are my treatment options?

First line therapy is aimed at decreasing inflammation. This can often times be accomplished through rest, ice, and oral or topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen, Aleve, etc.). If the above measures are not beneficial, a steroid injection may provide better pain relief. Other anti-inflammatory injections such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) may also be useful. Physical therapy before or after the injection may help with the inflammation and preventing the return of bursitis. Staying active is very important to prevent the progression of the disease. In the event inflammation becomes a long-term annoyance, your doctor may recommend a surgical consultation to consider removal of the affected bursa.

Is it preventable?

About 1 in 10,0000 people develop bursitis, commonly from the overuse of their joints, it is helpful to adhere to some measures below:

  1. Make exercise a regular part of your routine. Healthy weight maintenance reduces pressure on joints.
  2. Pause between repetitive movements and tasks.
  3. Get up and move around, prolonged sitting means exerting stress on joints.
  4. Use cushioning or padding when necessary