What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is the irritation or inflammation of the bursa. The bursa is a small sac filled with a fluid that lubricates your joints movements, decreasing friction of your bones. The more superficial bursae act as cushions between the skin and bone. More than 150 bursa are in the human body.

Bursitis occurs when a bursa becomes irritated or inflamed; resulting in pain and discomfort. The pain may be gradual (becoming worse and worse) or may be sudden and severe.

What Are The Symptoms?

If you have bursitis, the affected joint might:

  • Feel stiff or achy
  • Hurt more when you move it or press on it
  • Look swollen and red

When to see a doctor

Consult your doctor if you have:

  • Disabling joint pain
  • Sudden inability to move a joint
  • Excessive swelling, redness, bruising or a rash in the affected area
  • Sharp or shooting pain, especially when you exercise or exert yourself
  • A fever

What Causes Bursitis?

It is normally caused by repetitive motions, or direct, minor impact (having an object hit a joint).

The following is a list of some of the causes for bursitis:

  • Activities that cause overuse or injury to the joint areas, such as:
    • lifting something over your head in repetition
    • Lying on your elbows for prolonged periods
    • Kneeling for long periods of time
  • Poor posture
  • Stress on the soft tissues from an abnormal or poorly positioned joint or bone
  • Other diseases or conditions (gout, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, thyroid disease or an unusual drug reaction) and rarely, from infection.

Often times the cause of bursitis is unknown.

What Are The Treatments?

Your main goals in treating bursitis are, reductions in pain and inflammation while preserving mobility, while also preventing disability and recurrence.

Treatments may include a combination of rest, heat/cold application, and splints. Sometimes over the counter topical medications are helpful. More advanced treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen

  • Bursa injections. Injections are usually a quick way to reduce pain

  • Physical therapy

  • Surgery, if other treatments are not effective

What Are The Different Types Of Bursitis?

Although it can occur anywhere in the body where bursae are located, there are several specific types, including the following:

  • Anterior Achilles tendon
    This type of bursitis is also called Albert’s disease. Extra strain on the Achilles tendon, such as injury, disease, or shoes with rigid back support, causes this condition, which is characterized by inflammation of the bursa located in front of the attachment of the tendon to the heel.
  • Posterior Achilles tendon
    This type of bursitis, also called Haglund’s deformity, is located between the skin of the heel and the Achilles tendon (which attaches the calf muscles to the heel). Aggravated by a type of walking that presses the soft heel tissue to the hard back support of a shoe, this type occurs mostly in young women.
  • Hip
    Also called trochanteric bursitis, hip bursitis is often the result of injury, overuse, spinal abnormalities, arthritis, or surgery. This type is more common in women and middle-aged and older people.
  • Elbow
    Elbow bursitis is caused by the inflammation of the olecranon bursa located between the skin and bones of the elbow. This type can be caused by injury or constant pressure on the elbow (for example, when leaning on a hard surface).
  • Knee
    Bursitis in the knee is also called goosefoot or Pes Anserine bursitis. The Pes Anserine bursa is located between the shin bone and the three tendons of the hamstring muscles, on the inside of the knee. This type may be caused by lack of stretching before exercise, tight hamstring muscles, being overweight, arthritis, or out-turning of the knee or lower leg.
  • Kneecap
    Also called prepatellar bursitis, this type is common in people who sit on their knees a lot, such as carpet layers and plumbers.