Bursitis causes, symptoms and treatment

Bursa or bursae is an essential lubricated fluid-filled sac located between the bones and surrounding tendons, muscle tissue, and other bones around the joints such as shoulders, elbow, hip, knee, and near the heel etc. The lubrication helps to reduce the friction between the joint parts during movement. 

The total number of bursae varies from person to person; however, most people tend to have around 160 bursae in their body. Bursae are lined up with synovial cells, the special cells that produce a fluid rich in collagen and proteins. This fluid provides necessary lubrication to the parts when they move. 

And bursitis. is defined as inflammation of this bursa. It is a painful condition, and according to the part it affects, it is called with different names, for example, if it affects the knee bursa, it is called “clergyman’s knee,” or “housemaid’s knee,” and if it affects the elbow bursa, it is called “tennis elbow.”

Causes of Bursitis:

Bursitis is commonly caused due to trauma, an infection, or any pre-existing health condition.

Trauma or injury

It is one of the main causes that lead to inflammation of the bursa from repetitive motion of a particular joint or direct impact. If inflammation is due to minor trauma that may occur as a result of repetitive motion like throwing a ball, running long distances, etc., it is called chronic bursitis. 

If it is due to a direct blow that happens in accidents, it is called acute bursitis.


Bursae that are located close to the skin surface are most likely to get infected, called septic bursitis. Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis is the most common bacteria that causes septic bursitis. People with weak immune systems and other health problems like diabetes, certain kidney problems are at high risk of septic bursitis. About 85% of people experiencing septic bursitis are men.

Health conditions

People suffering from particular health conditions like gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma tend to form crystals inside the bursa. These crystals can damage the bursa and make it swell. 

Symptoms of Bursitis

If you think you bursitis, observe for the following symptoms near the affected joint:

  • Aching feel
  • Joint stiffness
  • Disabling joint pain
  • Pain flares up when you move or press on it
  • Look swollen and red
  • Unable to move a joint suddenly
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Excessive swelling or a rash in the affected area
  • Sharp pain, particularly when you do exercises or exert pressure in that area
  • A mild fever in some people 

If you experience these symptoms and they improve within a few days, consult a near orthopaedic doctor or your family doctor if you have one.

Treatment For Bursitis 

Generally, bursitis gets better by following simple measures like avoiding activities that make the condition worse, rest, putting a brace or splint, icing the area, and taking pain-relieving medicines. However, if these conventional measures don’t improve the condition, your doctor suggests the following treatment options:

  • If the inflammation of the bursa is caused due to infection, you may need antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Injections like corticosteroids are directly injected into the affected area to provide relief pain and inflammation in your body parts, such as shoulder joints or hip joints. This is an effective treatment and works fast in most cases, just with one injection. 
  • If the bursitis is in your knee or heel, use a walking cane temporarily to relieve pressure on that area until it heals. 
  • Physical therapy and other strengthening exercises can improve the strength of your muscles in the affected area and eases your pain. Therapies can also prevent a recurrence of bursitis.
  • When no other treatment options work, the inflamed bursa needs to be removed surgically. However, surgery to drain the affected bursa is very rare.

Prevention of Bursitis 

Though you may not always be able to prevent bursitis, you can take preventive steps to lower the risk.

  • When you rest your joint on any hard surface, like kneeling down or sitting, use cushions or pads for support.
  • When you play sports or about do any strenuous activity, warm up first, it is a very important step before you start any activity to prevent bursitis and to protect your joints from trauma.
  • Bend on your knees if you want to lift heavy weights so that you can avoid extra pressure on the bursae located in your hip joint.
  • Maintain a good posture all day and avoid sitting still for prolonged periods.
  • Often, take frequent breaks if your works involve repetitive motions over and over again.
  • Always maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Exercising daily will strengthen your muscles and joints.

The condition is more likely to improve with conventional treatment. However, bursitis might become chronic if you left it untreated. If you have pain and other symptoms that are not improving, consult an orthopaedic doctor as soon as possible. Dr. Ajay Tiwari, the Orthopedic Specialist in Hyderabad, has more than fifteen years of experience in treating various conditions associated with joints and bones. He is also one of the “best joint replacement surgeons in Hyderabad”. Call +91 98499 82203 to know more about treatment options.

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