What is bursitis?

Bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sac called bursa. This sac cushions the area between tissues such as bones and tendons, reducing the friction between the moving parts of the body.

The bursa can get inflamed as a result of repetitive motions, infection, trauma, and preexisting rheumatoid conditions.

The most common areas affected by bursitis are the shoulder, elbow, and hip. However, it can also affect the knee and the Achilles tendon.

Symptoms of Bursitis

Although the symptoms of bursitis could vary, depending on the affected site, pain and tenderness are the most common complaints of those who have it. The inflammation of the bursa may also cause limitations in movement.

Shoulder Bursitis

A person with shoulder bursitis usually complains of pain which often worsens at night, tender spots, and decreased range of active motion (overhead lifting and reaching causes discomfort).

Elbow Bursitis

In elbow bursitis, the pain increases when the elbow is bent. Infection is also common in this type of bursitis.

Hip Bursitis

The pain that occurs in hip bursitis worsens when the hip is extended and rotated. It usually radiates to the front and middle parts of the thigh to the knee.

There can also be tenderness in the groin area and at times, there can be a mass felt that resembles a hernia.

Knee Bursitis

The pain in knee bursitis is felt when the knee is bent. This can be troublesome for many people especially at night. In some cases, the pain radiates to the inner thigh and mid-calf.

Ankle Bursitis

With ankle bursitis, the pain is usually felt at the back of the heel and worsens with resistive flexion or passive extension.

Diagnosing Bursitis

Bursitis can be infectious. Hence, medical care should be sought if the symptoms are felt.

Doctors diagnose bursitis based on one’s medical history and result of physical exam and diagnostic tests.

In order to determine the cause of bursitis, the doctor may remove fluid from the bursa and send it to the laboratory for analysis.

Other tests that may be recommended include blood tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans. These tests help in ruling out other conditions.

How It Is Treated

Most cases of bursitis get better on their own. The discomfort is usually managed through rest, application of cold compress, and taking of pain reliever. However, if the symptoms are not relieved through conservative measures, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics, physical therapy, or corticosteroid injections.

Although it happens rarely, an inflamed bursa may be surgically drained.