Bursitis is a painful swelling of a small sac of fluid called a bursa. Bursae (plural of bursa) cushion and lubricate areas where tendons, ligaments, skin, muscles, or bones rub against each other.
People who repeat the same movement over and over or who put continued pressure on a joint in their jobs, sports, or daily activities have a greater chance of getting bursitis.
Bursitis can occur in the:
- Near the Achilles tendon
Bursitis is commonly caused by:
- Overuse and repeated movements. These can include daily activities such as using tools, gardening, cooking, cleaning, and typing at a keyboard.
- Long periods of pressure on an area. For example, carpet layers, roofers, or gardeners who work on their knees all day can develop bursitis over the kneecap.
- Aging, which can cause the bursa to break down over time.
- Sudden injury, such as a blow to the elbow.
Bursitis can also be caused by other problems, such as arthritis or infection (septic bursitis).
Bursitis usually causes a dull pain, tenderness, and stiffness near the affected bursa. The bursa may swell and make the skin around it red and warm to the touch.
You may be able to prevent bursitis from happening or coming back.
- Rest the area, and avoid any activity or direct pressure that may cause pain.
- Apply ice or cold packs as soon as you notice pain and tenderness.
- Take pain relievers you can buy without a prescription such as ASA or ibuprofen.
- Change the way you do activities with repeated movements that may strain your muscles or joints.
- Protect your joints from pressure. Cushion knees or elbows on hard surfaces, and wear shoes with good support that fit you well.
Home treatment is often enough to reduce pain and let the bursa heal. It usually includes resting the joint, applying ice, and taking pain medicine. Gentle exercises and stretching can help prevent stiffness. Your doctor may suggest physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles around your joints.
If you have severe bursitis, your doctor may use a needle to remove extra fluid from the bursa. Or you might wear a pressure bandage on the area. Both treatments are sometimes used together. Your doctor may also give you a shot of medicine to reduce swelling. Some people need surgery to drain or remove the bursa.
Sometimes the fluid in the bursa can get infected. If this happens, you may need antibiotics.