6 Things to Know About Bursitis

  • Woman with elbow pain
    What You Need to Know About Bursitis
    Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa, a small sac of fluid that cushions bones, muscles, skin, ligaments or tendons around the joints. These sacs, or bursae help reduce friction between these tissues as you move, so when a bursa becomes inflamed, it causes pain and swelling around the affected joint. There are more than 150 bursae all over the body, and any of them can get inflamed. Bursitis of the shoulder and bursitis of the hip are both common, but the knees, elbow, groin, heel and big toe are also susceptible to bursitis.

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    1. Bursitis vs. arthritis: One is often temporary, the other can’t be cured.
    Bursitis is often mistaken for arthritis because joint pain is a symptom of both conditions. There are various types of arthritis that cause joint inflammation, including the autoimmune response of rheumatoid arthritis or the breaking down of cartilage in the joints in degenerative arthritis. Bursitis, however, is the inflammation of a bursa, which is a small sac of fluid that cushions the various tissues around the joints. Arthritis can’t be cured, but bursitis is often temporary.

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    2. Bursitis can limit the joint’s range of motion.
    While symptoms vary from person to person, common symptoms include pain and tenderness near the inflamed bursa. Your range of motion may be temporarily limited, and if the affected bursa is near the surface of the skin, it may cause redness or swelling in the area. Some people may have chronic bursitis. This condition can cause permanently limited range of motion in nearby joints. It can also cause nearby muscles to deteriorate.

  • couple playing tennis
    3. Bursitis causes range from overuse to infection.
    While the cause of bursitis is unknown in many cases, the condition does have several identified causes. Repetitive motions, such as painting or playing tennis, can cause bursitis as an overuse injury. Minor trauma, such as kneeling for a long time, persistent pressure on the bursa, or poor posture can also cause a bursa to become inflamed. Some medical conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis or gout, are other bursitis causes. While it’s uncommon, bursitis can also develop from an infection.

  • Woman gardening
    4. The older you are, the more likely you will be to develop bursitis.
    Your job or hobbies might also put you at a higher risk for the condition. People who enjoy gardening, for example, may be on their knees for long periods of time, raising their risk for bursitis. Hobbies that involve repetitive motions, such as painting, playing an instrument, or playing certain sports, also put people at a higher risk. Jobs that involve repetitive motions or that require kneeling for an extended time, such as laying carpet, can increase the risk of bursitis. Even lying on your side for an extended period of time—like while you sleep—can result in bursitis.

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    5. Bursitis treatment is similar to other joint injuries and conditions.
    While bursitis is different from arthritis, several of the treatment options are still the same. Resting and elevating the affected joint as well as using compression and ice or heat therapy can help manage pain and reduce swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also help relieve pain. Your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections to deal with pain and swelling. Temporarily immobilizing the area or going to physical therapy may benefit some people. If the inflamed bursa is infected, you will need different treatment, which can include antibiotics, draining the fluid or, rarely, surgery to remove the infected bursa.

  • Smiling Woman Kneeling in Garden
    6. Activity modification is the key to bursitis prevention.
    While you can’t change your age, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of developing bursitis. To protect your knees while doing your job or hobbies, use a kneeling mat to reduce pressure on the joints. To protect your hips from bursitis, lift heavy objects with your legs rather than your hips and back. Instead of carrying heavy objects, use a cart in order to protect your shoulders from bursitis. Take breaks if your job or hobby requires repetitive movements. When you exercise—which is important to build muscle and maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of bursitis—be sure to warm up with stretches first.

6 Things to Know About Bursitis Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

About The Author

Ashley Festa is a Greenville, S.C.-based freelance writer and editor who has been writing professionally for nearly two decades. In addition to Healthgrades, she also has written for Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the University of Texas at Arlington School of Nursing and Health Innovation, and Fit Pregnancy magazine.
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Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 19
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