Bursitis health facts
- Bursitis is the irritation or inflammation of a bursa, a sac filled with lubricating fluid located between bones, tendons, muscles and skin in a joint.
- The hip, elbow and shoulders are most commonly affected, but it can also develop in the knee or foot.
- The most common cause is repetitive movement of a joint but it can also be caused by trauma.
- Symptoms include pain, tenderness, swelling and inflammation.
- Bursitis treatment usually involves resting the affected joint and protecting it from additional trauma while we identify the underlying cause to target with treatment.
What is bursitis?
Bursitis is a common condition that occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that cushions the tendons, bones, skin and muscles near joints.
Bursitis occurs near joints that are frequently used in a repetitive motion. The elbow (olecranon bursitis), hip (trochanteric bursitis) and shoulder (subacromial bursitis) are the most common locations for bursa inflammation. But people can also have it in their heel/Achilles tendon (retrocalcaneal bursitis), knee (prepatellar bursitis) and buttocks (ischiogluteal bursitis).
Causes of bursitis
The most common cause is repetitive motions of a joint. Kneeling and leaning the elbows on a hard surface for long periods of times can start bursitis. The likeliness of bursitis increases in those over 40 years old.
A person’s occupation or hobby could lead to developing this condition. Some examples include playing a musical instrument, throwing a baseball, painting, tennis, golf, skiing and extensive kneeling for scrubbing floors, gardening or laying carpet.
Medical conditions that could increase chances of bursa inflammation include trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, thyroid disorders, diabetes and infection. Being overweight can also increase a person’s chances, especially for cases in the knee or hip.
A person can reduce chances of bursitis by:
- Bending the knees when lifting items.
- Using kneeling pads.
- Taking frequent breaks while doing an activity that could cause bursitis.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Strengthening the muscles.
- Easing into a new exercise regimen.
- Stretching and warming up before any strenuous activity.
Bursitis symptoms and diagnosis
A joint that has the condition can be painful, swollen, tender and inflamed. These symptoms can build up gradually or be sudden and severe.
The following symptoms should lead to seeking medical treatment:
- Sharp or shooting pain, especially when exerting energy or working out.
- Disabling joint pain.
- Excessive redness, swelling, warmth, rash or bruising in the affected area.
- Sudden inability to move a joint.
- Multiple sites of pain.
Our sports medicine physician can often diagnose the condition by reviewing a patient’s medical history and conducting a physical exam, as well as performing an onsite sports musculoskeletal ultrasound scan. At times additional testing could be needed that includes imaging that can be done at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital, located on the same campus as our practice, or lab tests, that we can complete at our practice.
HealthFit’s approach to bursitis treatment
This condition can improve on its own but often needs to be treated by a medical professional.
Conservative treatment options include avoiding activities that irritate the problem, rest, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and applying ice. If these conservative measures do not improve the problem within a week, one should see a doctor. HealthFit Family Medicine’s sports medicine provider Dr. Yamazaki specializes in muscle and joint disorders like bursitis.
Medical treatment options could include:
- Medication. The inflammation could be caused by an infection that prescribed antibiotics can treat.
- Injections. A corticosteroid injected directly into the bursa can relieve inflammation and pain. This treatment generally works quickly and does not need to be repeated if the underlying injury is identified and addressed. At times the inflamed bursa must be drained, which can be completed in our offices under musculoskeletal ultrasound guidance.
- Therapy. Physical therapists can work to treat the tissue injury and kinesiologists can help identify exercises to strengthen the muscles around the affected area to improve function and prevent recurrence.
- Assistive device. A patient may be given a temporary functional brace to allow him/her to have relative rest of the injury while continuing to be active.
- Referral. In rare cases, Dr. Yamazaki will refer a patient to a sub-specialist if surgery is needed to fully remove the affected bursa.