What are bursae?
Signs and symptoms
Common symptoms include:
- Tenderness or pain
- Restricted movement.
Bursitis can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Strenuous or repeated physical activity
- Injury or trauma
- Underlying rheumatic conditions such as pseudogout and gout
- Inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.
A doctor may undertake the following to diagnose bursitis:
- Physical examination and full medical history
- Ultrasound scanning
- Blood tests
- Taking a sample of the fluid in the affected bursae to rule out infection or underlying conditions.
The treatment of bursitis will depend on whether or not there is infection present. In cases where there is no infection (aseptic bursitis) treatment will focus on reducing inflammation, including:
- Ice compresses applied to the area to reduce swelling and discomfort
- Resting the affected area (it may be necessary to restrict or stop the activity that has caused the bursitis)
- Wearing a support on the injured joint eg: a sling for shoulder or elbow bursitis
- Anti-inflammatory pain relieving medications eg: ibuprofen, naproxen
- Cortisone (corticosteroid) injections into the affected area
- Occasionally, the fluid may need to be aspirated (removed using a needle and syringe) from the affected bursa to relieve pressure. This may need to be done more than once
- Weight loss may be recommended in some cases in order to help to relieve pressure on the affected joint(s)
- Physical therapy or exercises to strengthen the muscles around the affected joint.
The risk and severity of flare-ups of bursitis can be reduced by changing the way that certain tasks are performed, for example:
- Using kneeling pads for jobs or hobbies that require a lot of kneeling
- Bending the knees when lifting something, which will reduce stress on the bursae of the hips
- Wheeling rather than carrying heavy loads, which will reduce stress on the bursae of the shoulders
- Taking frequent breaks from repetitive tasks
- Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on the joints
- Exercising to strengthen muscles (which can help to protect affected joints)
- Warming up and stretching before strenuous activities to prevent joint injury.
Lohr, K.M. (2016). Bursitis (Web page). Medscape Drugs and Diseases. New York, NY: WebMD LLC. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2145588-overview [Accessed: 27/06/17]
Mayo Clinic (2014). Bursitis (Web Page). Rochester, NY: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bursitis/basics/definition/con-20015102 [Accessed: 26/06/17]