Bursitis

Definition

Bursitis is the swelling and irritation of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between a muscles, tendons, and bones.

Alternative Names

Student's elbow; Olecranon bursitis; Housemaid's knee; Prepatellar bursitis; Weaver's bottom; Ischial gluteal bursitis; Baker's cyst; Gastrocnemius - semimembranosus bursa

Causes

Bursitis is often a result of overuse. It can be caused by a change in activity level, such as training for a marathon or by being overweight.

It can also be caused by trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or infection. Sometimes the cause can't be found.

Bursitis commonly occurs in the shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip. Other areas that may be affected include the Achilles tendon and the foot.

Symptoms

Symptoms of bursitis may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will ask about your medical history and perform physical exam.

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment

Your provider will talk to you about a treatment plan to help you resume your normal activity.

Tips to relieve bursitis pain:

For bursitis around the hips, knees, or ankle:

You should avoid activities that involve repetitive movements of any body part when possible.

Other treatments include:

As the pain goes away, your provider may suggest exercises to build strength and keep movement in the painful area.

In rare cases, surgery is done.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Some people do well with treatment. When the cause cannot be corrected, you may have long-term pain.

Possible Complications

If the bursa is infected, it becomes more inflamed and painful. This usually requires antibiotics or surgery.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if symptoms recur or do not improve after 3 to 4 weeks of treatment, or if the pain is getting worse.

Prevention

When possible, avoid activities that include repetitive movements of any body parts.

References

Biundo JJ. Bursitis, tendinitis, and other periarticular disorders of sports medicine. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 263.

Schmidt MJ, Adams SL. Tendinopathy and bursitis. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 117.


Review Date: 9/22/2016
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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