Bursitis is a condition that occurs when bursae (small fluid filled sacslocated between bones and opposing surfaces such as muscles, tissue tendons, ligaments or skin) become inflamed.
There are more than 150 bursae in the body. Bursitis can occur in any of the locations, but is more common in certain joints including the hip, knee, shoulder and elbow.
Causes of Bursitis
Bursitis often occurs in joints that have been overused. Repetitive movements can lead to inflammation of the bursa located nearby the joint.
Occupations that require individuals to repeat certain movements day after day can lead to the development of bursitis including musicians, carpenters and athletes. Gardeners, floor installers and others exposed to prolonged kneeling may also suffer from bursitis.
Inflammation of the bursae can also be caused by medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or infection. Bursitis due to infection is called septic bursitis. In septic bursitis, pus forms in the affected bursa creating a potentially dangerous medical condition.
Symptoms of Bursitis
Typically, bursitis produces an achy, arthritis type pain. The condition is referred to by many different names that correspond with the specific location of the inflammation. Some common names include: housemaid’s knee, tennis elbow, clergyman’s knee and miner’s elbow.
Bursitis symptoms depend on the joint that is affected as well as the type of bursitis (septic vs. aseptic). Potential symptoms include:
- Pain with movement or pressure
- Limited range of motion, which is sometimes severe
Treatment of Bursitis
If bursitis is mild, resting the joint may be all that is needed to reduce inflammation. Applying ice intermittently and taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, may also be helpful.
More severe or persistent cases of bursitis may require medical attention. Treatment options include:
- Support equipment: short-term use of a cane, elastic bandage wraps or other supportive devices may relieve pressure on the joint and encourage healing
- Prescription medications: if infection is present (septic bursitis), antibiotics may be needed
- Physical therapy:stretching and strengthening exercises can improve range of motion and reduce pain. Therapy may also be helpful in preventing future flare-ups
- Joint injections: whenthe above treatments are not successful,your doctor may inject a corticosteroid drug and pain reliever directly into the joint to reduce pain and inflammation
- Joint aspiration: performed as an in-office procedure, synovial fluid from the bursa is removed with a needle and syringe. Aspiration is done for diagnostic purposes or to remove fluid from a large effusion for pain relief and to improve mobility
- Surgery: when all other bursitis treatment therapies have failed, rarely, surgery is an option. During surgery, the inflamed bursa, bone spurs and sometimes a small amount of bone are removed
Prevention of Bursitis
To prevent inflammation, it is important to avoid overuse of the joint and repetitive motions. Increasing muscle strength around the joint is also beneficial. Avoid activities that put pressure on the joints such as leaning on the elbows, sitting or kneeling on hard surfaces for prolonged periods and wearing high heels.
Consider using knee and chair pads, taking frequent breaks to change positions, applying cushioned inserts to shoes and replacing sneakers as soon as they begin to show wear.