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What is Bursitis?

Achilles Tendon Bursitis_B

Bursitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the bursae, which are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the various bones, tendons, and muscles near a joint.

Causes of Bursitis

Common causes of bursitis include:

  • Sports-related activities
  • Repetitive manual labor
  • Kneeling for long periods of time
  • Improper posture while sitting or standing
  • Resting your elbows on hard surfaces for a long duration
  • Hard blow to the joint
  • Joint infection
  • Inflammatory arthritis conditions like rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of Bursitis

Signs and symptoms of bursitis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Stiffness of the joint
  • Increase in pain on touching or moving the affected area

Diagnosis of Bursitis

Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination of the joint will be performed. Diagnostic tests can include the following:

  • Imaging tests: X-ray images are not much use in this condition as bursitis does not show up on x-ray images. However,x-rays can be used to rule out the presence of other conditions. Other imaging techniques like MRI and ultrasound may be used in some cases to confirm the presence of bursitis.
  • Lab tests: In certain cases, you may be advised to get a blood test or a biopsy to ascertain the exact cause of bursitis.

Treatment for Bursitis

Bursitis can usually be treated with conservative measures such as rest, ice, taking over-the-counter pain-relieving medication, and relieving pressure on the affected area by using a walking cane or other assistive devices. If these measures fail, you might require:

  • Prescription pain medications, corticosteroid drugs to reduce inflammation and swelling, and antibiotics to treat an infection.
  • Incision and drainage of the bursa to reduce swelling.
  • Surgical removal of the infected bursa may also be performed in severe cases.
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that surround the joint.

Prevention of Bursitis

The risk of developing bursitis can be reduced by:

  • Taking frequent breaks when performing repetitive tasks
  • Using knee pads when kneeling for long periods
  • Lifting with proper body mechanics
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Warming up before starting strenuous activities
  • Practicing good posture when sitting and standing
  • Saint Louis University
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • Center of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine
  • SSM Health
  • Mercy